Are Living, Conscious Robots Possible?

A Tutorial on Enformed and Non-Enformed Systems

Don Watson


The Theory of Enformed Systems (TES) is a theory of organization itself—its origin, maintenance, and evolution. By logically following implications of the posit that enformy is the fundamental, conserved capacity to organize, TES explains life and consciousness as characteristics of enformed systems.

So, what's an "enformed system?" And what's a "non-enformed system?" These are critical questions, and we'll answer them by exploring the possibility of robots that live, perceive, learn, remember, and communicate as we do.

In speculating about the possibility of living, conscious robots, we rely on our world-views—our "theories" of the world as we believe it to be. We should pay close attention to these theories because they hold our beliefs and mold our expectations.

We learn our world-views from our subjective experiences, but this isn't a one-way street. We also use our world-views to interpret and learn our new experiences. That is, we accept, reject, or distort new information through the filter of what we already believe. That's what Eddington meant when he wrote, "We do not believe our eyes unless we are first convinced that what they appear to tell us is credible." In short, we'll see it when we believe it—and our beliefs reside in our theories.

I hope this tutorial will help you to incorporate a new theory, TES, into your existing world-view. Don't expect this to be easy because the ideas inherent in TES can't be interpreted in terms of any familiar world-view. You'll need to use your imagination and creativity to update your world-view.

If we don't regularly examine and update our world-views, we limit our ability to learn new ideas. This is a problem because our world-views are incomplete, inaccurate, and self-contradictory. That's because we haphazardly accumulate them from many sources—science, religion, fact, experience, and folklore.

The unreliability of our world-views creates anxiety for us because we're aware that they can easily lead us into mistakes. We can cope with this anxiety in either of two ways. We can learn to tolerate uncertainty, or we can dogmatically insist that our existing world-views are realistic, reliable, and internally consistent.

Though dogmatic thinking dooms us to repeat our mistakes, it's our preferred way to cope with uncertainty. That is, we humans prefer the certainty of fiction over the uncertainty of reality. This reliance on fiction is especially pernicious in science when scientists dogmatically deny their own dogmatism. In this tutorial, we'll examine how institutionalized dogmatism has obstructed our understanding of life and consciousness, and how TES can lead us toward a more realistic view of life and consciousness.

Materialistic, Spiritistic, and Enformistic World-views

Here's how our expectations about living, conscious robots depend on our world-views:

(a) If a person's world-view explains life and consciousness, he or she has reasons to either expect or reject the possibility of living, conscious robots. That's because the same explanation necessarily applies to living, conscious robots and living, conscious humans.

(b) If one's world-view not only fails to explain life and consciousness, but doesn't even permit them, the only reasonable expectation is that living, conscious robots are impossible.

(c) If one's world-view doesn't even address life and consciousness, of course, there is no reasonable basis for any expectation at all.

Ironically, the most dedicated proponents of living, conscious robots must expect that such robots are impossible, because their materialistic theories don't permit life and consciousness. They can maintain their beliefs only by invoking magic, but they don't seem to know this. It's invisible to them because they learned it tacitly as part of their enculturation in materialistic science. To appreciate why this is true, we'll begin by critically examining materialism and comparing it with spiritism and what we'll call enformism.

Materialism is the set of concepts that logically follow the premise that only matter is real. Following this premise, life and consciousness are emergent properties of matter in motion.

Isaac Newton gave strong impetus to the materialistic world-view with his scientific theories and his religious beliefs. He and his scientific contemporaries believed that God created the universe to run like a clock and promulgated inviolable "laws" to govern it. These ideas are so deeply embedded in our cultural and linguistic world-views that scientists and laypersons alike believe that the universe was created by a master clock-maker, and that the God-given laws of physics are universal and sacrosanct. Disabusing people of these notions is nearly impossible, because human beings—including scientists—are very reluctant to oppose the myths of their subcultures.

The current materialistic myth holds that living organisms are very complex systems, and life and consciousness are emergent properties of these systems. This is the belief that supports the prediction that human scientists and engineers will eventually create real life and real intelligence from artificial life (Alife) and artificial intelligence (AI). As we proceed, we'll see that this belief is not only scientifically indefensible, it is false by any reasonable standard.

Spiritism is the set of concepts that logically follow the premise that spirit is primary, and everything material is a product of spirit.

The miscellaneous spiritistic world-views are the theoretical foundations, not only of the major religions, but of New Age thought, energy medicine, and vitalism. Each of these world-views embraces the proposition that living organisms are animated by a spirit, soul, or some sort of non-material life force (vis vitae).

Spiritistic world-views are scientifically useless because they rely on "revealed truths" instead of testable hypotheses. Many spiritists contend they have no use for scientific methods or reasoning, but their world-views are useless even by their own standards because they're fragmented by critical contradictions among the abundant "one true faiths."

In short, spiritists are united in denouncing the notion of living, conscious robots, but they're hopelessly divided in the reasons for their protests.

Enformism is the set of concepts that are based on the premise that organization itself is fundamental to everything, including matter and spirit.

Enformism derives explicitly from the Theory of Enformed Systems (TES). Like spiritism, enformism holds that something non-material is fundamental to matter, but enformism is deeper than spiritism because it holds that organization per se is fundamental to everything, including "spirit."

Enformism is also broader than spiritism because TES provides an internally consistent, holistic model of the SELF. This entity superficially resembles some renderings of "soul," but is far more useful because it's well-defined and testable. (If you're not familiar with TES, I hope the brief notes about it in this tutorial will entice you to study it. The final section of this tutorial can help you do this.)

Because TES is a single, coherent explanation of life and consciousness, it provides a valid scientific rationale for either accepting or rejecting the possibility of living, conscious robots. As we'll see, it rejects this possibility.

Enformed and Non-enformed Systems

As an empirically testable product of scientific reasoning, TES is useful for explaining a long list of scientifically unexplained phenomena, at the top of which are life and consciousness. As we proceed, we'll see why the materialistic and spiritistic world-views fail to explain these anomalies, then we'll find the rationale to abandon them in favor of TES.

We'll begin with the TES-based conclusion about robots, then work backwards to find the reasons that lead to it:

Robots cannot live because living organisms are enformed systems, and robots are non-enformed systems.

Of course, this doesn't mean anything unless "enformed" and "non-enformed" are defined. Here are two ways to express the differences between enformed and non-enformed systems (in this context, I'm using the term system in its broadest sense—a connected group of parts, regardless of the nature of the connections):

1. Enformed systems occur naturally, and non-enformed systems are artificially constructed.

2. Enformed systems are more than the sums of their parts, and non-enformed systems are equal to the sums of their parts.

These statements merely characterize the systems; they don't help us to understand their differences. To begin to understand them, we'll refer to the last two lines of Joyce Kilmer's poem, "Trees:"

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Kilmer thereby asserts that natural and artificial systems differ in the ways they are made. Because his lines are intuitive, memorable, and consequential, we'll attach the name Kilmer Principle to this statement:

Enformed and non-enformed systems are fundamentally different because they originate in fundamentally different ways.

Though Kilmer attributed the origin of poems to humans and trees to God, he didn't specify what he meant by "God." This is a problem, because no particular concept of God is universal. Saying "God is nature" would satisfy many people, but concepts of nature aren't universal, either. Yet, unless we understand the "creator," we can't understand the Kilmer principle.

TES explains the "creator." To understand how, consider the difference between entities and processes. The major western theologies hold that, just as human entities make their products, a supernatural entity (God) creates trees and other natural systems. In contrast, TES states that a natural process (enforming) creates them. Under TES, then, the "creator" isn't an entity. It's a process—and this process creates everything, including entities.

I place "creator" in quotation marks to signal the presence of a linguistic trap in English and the other Indo-European languages. These languages attribute primacy to entities because they require that sentences contain a noun but not an active verb. Further, when sentences contain a verb that denotes an action, they require an noun to identify an entity that performs the action. Thus, if our thinking is slave to our languaging, actions never occur on their own. That's why English speakers use nonsensical sentences such as, "It's raining," even though there's no such entity as an "it" that rains.

In contrast, certain Native American languages give primacy to active verbs, presupposing that processes can occur by themselves. In these languages, "Raining" is not only a complete sentence, it makes sense. So do the sentences "Creating" and "Enforming."

In short, when we English speakers think of creating, we automatically think of an entity that creates. We need to think outside this box, but since we're stuck with English, the best we can do is to stay aware of how our noun-heavy language makes us think that the "creator" is an entity. In this tutorial, we'll maintain awareness of this bias by using repetition, e.g., the creator is a process, not an entity.

Now we're ready to understand the characterizations of the statement above that enformed systems occur naturally, and non-enformed systems are artificially constructed. Under TES, natural systems are enformed systems because they're created by the enforming process, and artificial systems are non-enformed systems because they're made by human entities. In other words, the organization found in natural systems is provided by enforming, and the organization found in artificial systems is provided by humans.

Because TES explains how the systems are organized, it also explains the statement above that enformed systems are more than the sums of their parts, and non-enformed systems are the simple sums of their parts. Enformed systems are the sums of their parts plus a four-dimensional "map" that specifies how they are dynamically organized, i.e., the relationships among its parts in space and time. Non-enformed systems don't possess such a map.

The "map" that identifies enformed systems is denoted SELF, which is acronymed from Singular, Enformed, Living Field. Here, "Singular" means unique, "Enformed" means created by enforming, "Living" means capable of evolving to more complex forms, and "Field" means that the influences of SELF's are extensive in space-time. (We'll return to this key concept of TES later, but if you can't wait, you can read a concise presentation of these ideas in this poster presentation.)

Now we can refine our understanding of the Kilmer Principle with these statements:

3. Natural systems are organized by a subscendent process, and artificial systems are organized by transcendent entities.

These statements evoke (at least) two questions: (a) "What does subscendent mean?" and (b) "Since God is transcendent, doesn't this mean there's no difference between natural and artificial systems?"

We'll address the second question first. It's true that, if Kilmer's transcendent God creates trees, then Statement 3 means that poems and trees are both artificial. This would also mean, ironically, that the Kilmer Principle is false, and that the origins of trees and poems are fundamentally the same. It would also mean that we humans can eventually build robots that are not only alive and conscious, but human in every essential way.

In contrast, TES accepts the validity of the Kilmer Principle, so it predicts that robots can't live or be conscious. We can see why by understanding the term subscendent. I coined this word to mean the opposite of transcendent. Transcendent means "surpassing" and "above," and subscendent means "before" and "below."

In short, we humans are transcendent to (above) the artificial systems we make, whereas enforming—the "creator"—is subscendent to (below) the natural systems it creates.

In this tutorial, we'll limit our discussion of artificial systems to those that are man-made, but note in passing that termite mounds are also artificial because transcendent entities (termites) provide their organization. We'll also note that systems made by transcendent entities aren't the only kind of non-enformed systems. For instance, conglomerate rocks and dead bodies are non-enformed systems.

In sum, under TES, enformed systems such as living, conscious entities are created by the subscendent process of enforming. No transcendent entity of any kind can artificially create enformed systems because neither humans nor gods can subscend themselves.

Of course, this conclusion is automatically controversial because it relies on a new theory. Since most scientists believe that materialistic theories will eventually explain everything, and typical spiritists believe their theories already explain everything, we must have a compelling reason to rely on TES. We have such a reason.

The best way is to evaluate a theory is to compare its parsimony, or explanatory power, with that of other theories. The more useful theory explains a larger number of phenomena with a smaller number of assumptions. Compared with materialistic and spiritistic theories, TES is in the catbird seat here. Materialistic theories are useless for explaining the origin of life and consciousness because they require magic, and spiritistic theories are too ambiguous and self-contradictory to coherently explain anything.

TES handily explains the origin of life and consciousness, for reasons that will become clear later. For now, because TES is a scientific theory of "spirit," we'll stay with the topic of creation and compare TES's explanatory ability with that of a theological theory. Then we'll compare it with the prevailing materialistic theories.

The Watchmaking God

Western spiritists have a long history of conceptualizing their gods as anthropomorphic "creators." Under TES, this is a big mistake, because it means that the systems made by these gods, including humans, are artificial and non-enformed. We'll see later that spiritists are not alone in using human products as analogs of natural systems; materialists do this, too.

To illustrate the anthropomorphic thinking of spiritists, consider the watchmaker argument for the existence of God. Since William Paley promoted the idea in 1802, it has long been argued that,

(a) watches and the universe are well organized;

(b) watches are designed and built by human beings;

(c) therefore the universe was created by a watchmaker-like being.

Aside from the faulty syllogism, this anthropomorphic argument has a fatal flaw that's usually ignored. It doesn't distinguish creating from designing. It's true that human watchmakers can design watches and build them from raw materials, but it's equally true that watchmakers cannot create the raw materials from nothing. The "creator" of the universe, in contrast, created everything from nothing, and therefore can't resemble human watchmakers.

Advocates of the watchmaker proposition make another mistake in claiming that there are only two possibilities to explain the universe's order: Either (a) the universe was designed by an intelligent entity with a plan, or (b) the universe came together entirely by chance. That this is a false dilemma is shown by this third possibility, as embodied in TES:

The universe was created by enforming—the subscendent organizing process.

A necessary element of the watchmaker argument asserts that the universe was created with a purpose—i.e., according to a pre-existing plan in God's mind. This teleological theory is generally seen as opposed to the materialistic theory of neo-Darwinism, whereby purely random genetic mutations account for the appearance of new species, and natural selection determines whether or not these species survive.

TES's explanation of the evolution of species differs from neo-Darwinism's explanation because it doesn't originate with material genetic structures. Under TES, potential new species are created as pre-physical, four-dimensional SELFs, and these can survive only if they are harmonious with the whole pre-physical system in which they appear. Moreover, they can appear as physical species only if they're compatible with the genetic structure of existing species.

Under TES, physical genetic structures (e.g., DNA) provide stability to species, and pre-physical SELFs provide variability and novelty. Thus the process of evolution occurs at both material and non-material levels.

We could say that, under TES, evolution is intelligent because it allows life forms to adapt to changing habitats. But we won't say it, because the adjective intelligent applies to entities, not processes. Therefore, using it in this context would lure the unprepared reader into believing an entity propels evolution.

The Materialist-Spiritist Problem

If you're not familiar with TES, you might be concerned at this point that we're merely playing word games or in other ways engaging in philosophical sophistry. We're not. As theorists do, we're using scientific reasoning by working with the deep concepts that the words represent. But if you haven't yet explored the significance of these concepts in terms of TES, I would expect you to be doubtful. I encourage you to keep these words and concepts handy—and maintain your skepticism—as we proceed. Your patience will be rewarded when you learn how the concepts of TES explain life and consciousness. To appreciate TES fully, though, we'll see why the concepts of materialistic and spiritistic theories can't explain them.

Many people today express the wish to reconcile "spirit" with "science." The problem is, if we take "science" to mean traditional materialism and "spirit" to mean traditional spiritism, such a reconciliation can't happen. That's because spiritism and materialism are incongruous from their conceptual roots up. By remaining true to their premises, each remains in its own box, and these boxes must remain separate. We'll identify this incongruity as the materialist-spiritist problem.

We bring up this problem now to emphasize that we can avoid it. We can use TES, not to reconcile "spirit" and "science," but to conceptualize both of them in entirely new ways. We'll begin to do this by returning to the Kilmer Principle and asking, "What's the fundamental difference between the origins of robots and humans?"

Materialists have no difficulty answering this question:

There is no fundamental difference. Humans are naturally-occurring machines, and eventually, we will produce self-organizing, self-programing robots that will be human in every essential way. The Kilmer Principle is bogus.

Spiritists have no difficulty answering the question, either:

Humans have souls, but robots don't. We humans can't create living, conscious robots because we can't create souls. The Kilmer Principle is true.

Which of these radically different positions is true? Answering this question is traditionally considered a task for philosophy, but philosophy is useless beyond pointing out that (a) both propositions are logically true, and (b) the propositions contradict each other because they follow from contradictory premises. In other words, the conceptual tools of philosophy can't solve the materialist-spiritist problem because its incongruities are built into the problem. This is also true of the mind-body problem. Because philosophy offers no way out of this sort of problem, philosophers can only jump into one box or the other and argue.

Science, however, gives us a way to avoid the philosophers' box. Scientific hypotheses can be tested by comparing them to observations of the real world. Because the real world doesn't contradict itself, it's possible (though not always easy) to identify false hypotheses. So we'll dismiss philosophy in favor of scientific reasoning as it's expressed in TES.

TES explains the Kilmer Principle this way:

Living, conscious organisms are animated by SELFs, which are created by the enforming process. Non-enformed systems such as robots are not animated by SELFs.

This is not the complete story of SELFs because the concept of SELF also applies to inanimate wholes and discarnate entities, but it's sufficient at this point.

Cultural Characteristics of Materialism and Spiritism

Before applying scientific reasoning to the materialist-spiritist problem, it's important to examine the cultural and psychological factors that influence it. That's because reasoning has far less impact on the materialist-spiritist problem than the dogma of cultural beliefs and the idiosyncracies of individual mind-sets. This applies to scientists and non-scientists alike.

Scientism, the religion of science, embraces materialism as its central dogma. The historical roots of Scientism are discussed in the essay, The Religion of Scientism.

Briefly, the cultural characteristics of Scientism limit the thinking of scientists to certain prescribed beliefs, myths, icons, rituals, language, and taboos. Scientists who abide by these elements of culture are rewarded with acceptance in the group, but those who ignore or violate them are punished with shunning and withdrawal of institutional and financial support. Because these characteristics are typical of all cultures, I sometimes use the term "ethnic science" to emphasize the religious nature of Scientism.

We'll find other examples of constrained thinking in science when we analyze the failures of materialism to explain life and consciousness. First, we'll examine the spiritistic theories of life, the majority of which identify the "self" as the "soul."

Spiritistic Theories of Life

The mind-sets of spiritists aren't essentially different from those of scientists who embrace Scientism. The overwhelming majority of spiritists are not only theory-blind, they don't even realize that their belief systems are theories. Instead, they dogmatically believe their theories are universal, incontrovertible truths. It's amusing that the majority of scientists also dogmatically believe that their theories—for instance, the second law of thermodynamics—are universal, sacrosanct truths.

Dogmatism prevails in both camps because scientists and spiritists alike are enculturated, indoctrinated, and trained—not educated. Education begins with questioning ideas we've been trained to believe, and it proceeds by unlearning what's not realistic and replacing these concepts with more realistic ones. Regrettably, though, educating ourselves isn't popular because it's hard, often painful work. Indeed, it's the same process we use for grieving.

The dogmatism of spiritists and scientists doesn't mean that the idea content of spiritism and Scientism is the same, of course. Unlike Scientism, for instance, spiritism isn't limited to a single set of basic doctrines, as evidenced by the wide variety of religions, sects, and cults that follow from various instances of "revealed truth" and "ancient wisdom." This fragmentation ensnares spiritism in a quagmire of contradictions. Even beliefs in the existence of God are contradictory in the major religions. For instance, devout followers of western religions believe in such an entity, but equally devout Buddhists don't.

The notion of "soul" also illustrates spiritism's morass. Spiritism lays claim to the soul, but since the concept of soul isn't derived from a scientific foundation, it's subject to widely varying, even diametrically opposite, renderings. At one pole, only humans have souls—trees and other living organisms do not. At the other pole, everything has a soul—humans, trees, bacteria, and possibly poems and robots, as well. Between these poles, humans and certain other animals, such as pets and the great apes, have souls, but bacteria don't.

Taken as a group, spiritistic theories of life purport to explain life and death, but they do so in self-contradictory terms. According to these theories, physical bodies start living when they are imbued with a soul or spirit (but the theories don't agree on when this occurs) and they die when the soul or spirit departs the body. Some spiritist theories hold that departed souls can reincarnate, while other theories maintain that souls live intact, eternally.

It's helpful to mention vitalism as a special case of spiritism here. The vitalistic world-view holds that "something" distinguishes living from non-living systems. In general, that "something" is called a "life force" or vis vitae. Through the ages, people have given more specific names to the "something" with the terms chi, prana, élan vital, orgone energy, and subtle energy.

The vitalistic theories have the advantage of not concerning themselves with ambiguities such as "soul" and "spirit," but they have their own fatal problems. One problem is, the new names don't explain anything, because the statement, "Living organisms possess subtle energy," means the same as, "Living organisms possess 'something.'" Another problem is, none of the concepts labeled by these terms have been logically developed into a general theory of organized systems (such as TES) that could serve to predict life and consciousness.

In general, spiritistic explanations are not satisfactory because they have no depth. That is, they "explain" with poorly defined, stand-alone words (e.g., "soul," "spirit," "vital force"), not with broadly applicable concepts that derive from deep principles. Further, spiritistic theories must be taken on faith because they can't be empirically tested, which leaves them open to idiosyncratic interpretations. That's why there's no spiritistic consensus on the difference between "soul" and "spirit" or between "spirit" and "life force."

As for whether robots can live, however, spiritistic and vitalistic theories are unanimous. They hold that robots can't live because they don't possess souls, spirits, or vis vitae—whatever these words might mean.

TES, in contrast, is both broad and deep. It's founded on the posit that there exists a fundamental, conserved capacity to organize termed enformy. The concept of SELF—the four-dimensional "map" alluded to above—is deductively derived from the enformy posit. Because SELFs animate living organisms, TES eliminates the need for undefined concepts such as "soul," "spirit," or "vis vitae." There's no need for a concept of "mind," either, because the SELF performs all the operations traditionally attributed to the mind. That's why there's no "mind-body problem" in the TES world-view. Further, as a theory of organization per se, TES does not apply only to living systems. It applies to all natural systems, animate or inanimate.

The Magic in Materialistic Theories

The most consequential problem with materialistic science is this: To predict that living robots are possible, scientific theories must be augmented with magic. There are two contradictory meanings of the term magic: (a) the illusion of impossible events, and (b) the actuality of impossible events. As it turns out, materialistic science depends on both kinds of magic. We'll examine illusory magic in this section and the actual magic in the next section.

Illusory magic is inherent in the myth that Berney Williams and I termed reversible reductionism. In the "Introduction to the Theory of Enformed Systems," we expose this illusion by analyzing this Possum Principle:

Two half-possums do not equal one whole possum.

Reducing a possum to its parts results in two irreversible, irretrievable losses: (a) the possum's life, and (b) the four-dimensional "map" that specifies the relationships among the possum's parts in space-time. Once this "map" is lost, the possum can't be restored without magic, i.e., the illusion of reversible reductionism.

The myth of reversible reductionism is founded on this sort of unstated analogy: Because we can take clocks apart and put them back together again, we can also take living organisms apart, then reverse the process to restore them to their original states. In fact, all the King's horses and all the King's men can't do this. Reductionistic materialists can only accept the illusion that it happens.

Though reversible reductionism is deeply embedded in Scientism's folklore, it wasn't developed by scientific reasoning. That probably explains why, when this belief is expressed at all, it's presented with a flourish—a magician's hand-wave. This staple of materialistic lore is kept secret because critical scrutiny would expose it as illusory. It isn't even discussed in scientific training programs, much less questioned, challenged, or tested. If it were explicitly examined, young scientists-in-training would reject it instead of tacitly learning it as part of their enculturation.

Though the myth of reversible reductionism isn't included in any formal scientific theory, it's a necessary element of the notion of physicalism, as proposed by the logical positivist, Otto Neurath. Physicalism is the belief that all science will eventually be expressed in the language of physics.

The idea that physics is the "one true science" undoubtedly explains why physicalism is popular with physicists, but it's burdened with a serious problem: It's false. In fact, the hierarchies of properties that emerge in increasingly complex systems require hierarchies of scientific methodologies, conceptual frames, and languages to explain them. That's why quantum theory can't even predict the boiling point of water from first principles, much less the properties and behaviors of living organisms.

Reversible reductionism joins the clock-work universe as two examples of scientists trying to understand nature by using human products as analogs of natural systems. Using the computer as a model of the brain is another example. In my world-view, this practice epitomizes the unbounded narcissism of humans.

Materialistic Theories of Life

Now we'll focus on the particulars of contemporary materialistic theories of life, because if they can't predict living, conscious organisms without resorting to magic, they can't provide a realistic reason to expect that we can design and build living, conscious robots.

There's a long history of magical explanations of the origin of life. History's most prominent and enduring theory is that of "spontaneous generation," which was rooted in ancient Greek and Roman philosophies. According to this doctrine, living organisms appear from inanimate material without the apparent intervention of any external agent or factor. For instance, beetles, rats, and maggots were once believed to spring to life from putrefying materials, as were microbes after they were discovered. That spontaneous generation required magic was not barrier to its acceptance, because "natural magic" was a fashionable explanation of natural processes in ancient times.

The magic wasn't in the actuality of the life forms, of course, because they were demonstrably real. The magic was in the impossibility of their spontaneous origins. Our ancestors hadn't thought of any external agents or factors that could generate life, so belief in natural magic reflected the state of scientific knowledge of the time. The same level of scientific knowledge—or lack of it—also applies to the magic in contemporary materialistic theories.

TES provides a way to avoid resorting to the natural magic of spontaneous generation to explain the origin of life. That is, we're no longer forced to rely on "spontaneity"—the absence of an apparent external cause. Now we can advance the state of scientific understanding by saying that enforming is the "apparent external cause" of the origin of life.

Scientists thought that the notion of spontaneous generation was put to death in 1860, when Louis Pasteur showed experimentally that no microbes appeared from a substrate that had been boiled. But spontaneous generation has recently been resurrected as a necessary element of modern materialistic theories of life. As we examine these theories, we'll find spontaneous generation hiding behind a new name.

To be valid, materialistic explanations of life must show, theoretically and empirically, that:

1. Living systems result solely from physical processes, and

2. these processes do not violate the second law of thermodynamics (the "entropy law").

The entropy law is sacrosanct in materialistic science because it provides "time's arrow." That is, it imparts irreversibility and direction to time, which the mathematics of Newtonian mechanics doesn't do. The entropy law predicts that the state of the universe inexorably moves from organized to disorganized. In 1854, Hermann von Helmholtz interpreted the law to mean that the entire universe will eventually come to rest at a uniform state of "thermal death."

The problem is, life is moving in the wrong direction—opposite time's arrow, from disorganized to organized. In this context, the term life means the continuous increase in organization per se in the universe, as manifested by the origin, maintenance, and evolution of living systems, and the term heat death means the continuous movement of the state of the universe from organized to disorganized, as implied in the entropy law.

Life's reversal, if not of time, then of entropy, was addressed by Erwin Schrödinger in his 1944 book, What is Life? He tried to account for life by saying it "feeds on 'negative entropy.'" Of course, Schrödinger knew that entropy is never negative, and he conceded the term was "awkward." So he denoted his idea, not with a literal negative, but with a new term: "Entropy, taken with the negative sign, is itself a measure of order." Leon Brillouin tried to reduce the awkwardness further in 1950 by coining a new word, negentropy, to mean the opposite of entropy, not its negative. I think the term oppentropy would be even less awkward, but for now, we'll follow Brillouin's usage of "negentropy" to denote a measure of order. TES identifies this notion of order with the term enformation, which is the direct product of enforming.

Instead of fundamentally resolving the question of whether life violates the entropy law, the idea of feeding on negentropy only works around it. As we'll see when we consider the basics of TES, it isn't necessary to find ways to circumvent the law because:

The second law of thermodynamics is not a universal, inviolable law. It's a local ordinance that applies only in certain jurisdictions.

Limiting the applicability of the entropy law isn't as heretical as it might seem at first. Quantum mechanics limits the jurisdiction of Newton's laws, which were once thought to be universal and inviolable. That is, they don't apply to objects and processes of the submicroscopic scale. Conversely, quantum theory is limited in its jurisdiction, because it doesn't predict the macroscopic processes that are described by Newton's laws.

By definition, the jurisdiction of the entropy law is limited to closed systems, but living organisms occur in open systems. However, the difference between open and closed systems is simply a matter of defining boundaries. If we take the universe as a whole, we can consider it closed, as Helmholtz did, and therefore moving from organized to disorganized states toward heat death. By the same reasoning, we must consider life itself—the continuous movement from disorganized to organized states—to be outside the jurisdiction of the entropy law. Thus, the enformy posit and TES provide the "enformy law," which is complementary to the entropy law.

This lays the foundation for expressing another difference between enformed and non-enformed systems:

4. Enformed systems conform to the enformy law, and non-enformed systems conform to the entropy law.

A popular attempt to circumvent the entropy law is to "outrun" the entropy increase of a system with externally applied energy and matter. This is the notion inherent in the long-lived theory, popular among cosmologists, that life originated with the gathering together of a sufficient number of chemical "building blocks of life." In support of this idea is the famous experiment of Stanley Miller and Harold Urey, who discovered that applying an electrical discharge to an artificial atmosphere containing methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide produced several organic compounds. This experiment and its progeny supports the belief that physical processes alone can launch and sustain the organization of complex systems, and therefore life on Earth. A variation of this theory posits the transport of "building blocks" from outer space—which merely displaces the origin of life to somewhere other than Earth.

Regardless of how the building blocks appeared, a conjuror's hand-wave accompanies the assertion that chemical building blocks defy the entropy law by coming together in the right order to eventually produce DNA. Then DNA creates life.

But does DNA create life? It does not. Empirical observation shows that DNA doesn't contribute to living processes unless it's incorporated in cells that are already alive. In fact, instead of creating life, DNA simply disintegrates if left alone. Thus, DNA is in the jurisdiction of the entropy law—but life is not.

Two contemporary theories of the origin of life work around the entropy law but meet the materialistic requirement of giving primacy to matter: (a) Ilya Prigogine's theory of dissipative systems, and (b) chaos/complexity theory, as interpreted by Stuart Kauffman. These theories are related by their common dependence on the putative process of self-organization, by which systems organize themselves without any apparent external cause—i.e., spontaneously. The final forms of these systems are determined by "attractors"—the putative preferred states or configurations for self-organizing systems. However, the origin and nature of these teleological attractors remain mysterious. Indeed, they resemble the pre-existing plans or purposes of the entity that makes them.

The term self-organization is ambiguous because it's applied to a wide range of systems, from simple physical systems to social groups that are already highly organized. We won't concern ourselves with how pre-existing systems change their configurations because they address topics that are far removed from the origin of life. Instead, we'll focus on self-organization as it might apply to the origin of life. In this sense, self-organization means that living organisms organize themselves from disorganized physical elements without help from any sort of "creator"—attractors notwithstanding.

Have you noticed that "self-organization" sounds familiar? It's the new name for spontaneous generation! But because self-organization, nee "spontaneous generation," requires magic, any theory of the origin of life that requires it—including those of Prigogine and Kauffman—is scientifically indefensible.

That self-organization requires magic is illustrated by two fatal problems, one logical and the other scientific.

Logically, the notion of self-organization is rendered absurd by self-contradiction. That is, if a self (system) exists to organize itself, then it's already organized. But if only elements of a self exist, then no self exists to organize itself. This sort of conceptual chaos doesn't seem to bother those who use the term.

The scientific problem with self-organization is more compelling: It doesn't happen. Absolutely no empirical studies document living systems that spontaneously organize themselves from inanimate matter.

Attempting to circumvent this failure, Kauffman has artificially constructed electronic circuits and computer models to demonstrate what he characterizes as "order for free." But the organizing exhibited by these models is neither free nor spontaneous. It derives from the organization that Kauffman himself transcendently imposed on the models. To constitute evidence of self-organization at that level, computers would have to spontaneously appear from piles of sand, iron, aluminum, copper, petroleum, and other constituents, then program themselves—all without the intervention of any human. As far as I know, this has never happened.

Advocates for these theories might complain that I've left out many details here, but I see no point in theorizing about the length, hardness, and color of a unicorn's horn if the unicorn itself can't be shown to exist.

Materialistic reductionists firmly cling to the illusion that systems organize themselves because it's the last hope of materialism. The fact that it would require magic doesn't weaken their faith or dampen their zeal. Instead, they compound their mistakes with the sleight-of-tongue of using the term "self-organizing systems" to mean "living organisms." Scientists who have no rationale or data to support their beliefs find such tautologies acceptable. But that's not science. It's philosophy.

It might seem ironic that Scientism relies on philosophy instead of science, embraces the magic of spontaneous generation, and accepts the notion that living systems organize themselves from inanimate matter as an article of faith. But it's not ironic. Scientism is the religion of materialism, and it uses any means at its disposal to justify—or, more appropriately, rationalize—its core beliefs.

In sum, materialistic theories can't explain or predict the origin of life without magic, and because building robots relies on these belief systems, they can't predict that robots can live. Or die.

What is Death?

It makes no sense to explain life without also explaining death. Previously, we defined life in terms of the big picture as "the continuous increase in organization per se in the universe, as manifested by the origin, maintenance, and evolution of living systems." We also defined death as the inexorable movement of the state of the universe from organized to disorganized, as described by the entropy law. In this section, we'll change our focus from the big picture to life and death as these notions apply to individual organisms.

Because materialists claim that life appears as an emergent property of complex systems, it logically follows that life disappears when the complexity of a system decreases. If this were true, it would be empirically verifiable, but it isn't. A recently dead human body can be virtually as complex as the same body when it was alive. For that matter, a dead human body is far more complex than the cell of a living amoeba.

This doesn't mean that complexity isn't necessary for physical systems to live, of course. But conceptualizing life as a product of complex physical structures alone leads us down blind alleys. We'll explore this in the context of the dying process in otherwise healthy persons—in particular, the sudden cardiac death that occurs in children who suffer ventricular fibrillation while they are playing strenuous games. Without warning, these children lose consciousness and collapse when their hearts stop pumping blood. If they aren't resuscitated within approximately four minutes, they die. We'll refer to this time period as the "critical time."

During the critical time, the children's material bodies do not substantially disintegrate. That is, they do not lose sufficient complexity to sustain life. We know this because converting their arrhythmia to normal sinus rhythm during this time period reverses the dying process.

If the children aren't resuscitated, the irreversible process of dying allows their bodies to begin to disintegrate. Until that happens, all relevant processes are reversible. This must be explained by any theory of life and death.

If children are resuscitated after the critical time, their brains and other organs suffer varying degrees of damage due to oxygen deprivation. If their brain damage isn't too severe, they can regain some degree of function, though they might have difficulty with recall, speech, and locomotion. Children with severe brain damage might suffer brain death, continue to live in a comatose state, or continue to be "awake" in a persistent vegetative state. Those with severe damage to their other organs usually die in a few days or hours. These "in-between" variants must also be explained by any theory of life and death.

Hypothermic arrest is also relevant to the dying process. Patients with extremely dangerous vascular abnormalities are put into a state of "suspended animation" by lowering their body temperature and stopping the circulation of their blood to perform certain kinds of surgery. When their circulation is restarted and their body temperature is returned to normal, they return to their normal states. An example of this is given below.

Here, for reference, are the concepts of TES that characterize human bodies in living, suspended animation, "in between," and dead states:

(a) Healthy living bodies are enformed systems.

(b) Bodies in suspended animation are enformed systems.

(c) "In between" bodies consist partly of enformed systems and partly of non-enformed systems.

(d) Dead bodies are non-enformed systems.

Thus, whether or not human bodies—or their parts—are in the jurisdiction of the entropy law depends on the degree of organization of the whole body. Explaining this requires looking at bodies in a way that's radically different from materialistic methods.

To this point, we've been following the materialistic tradition of looking solely at states of the material structure we call the body. In doing so, we've ignored the "self." In this sense, the term self applies to the first person—i.e., the entity to which I refer when I use the pronoun I. Thus the behaviors and operations of the self can only be observed subjectively.

Due to its self-inflicted half-blindness, which limits its vision to objective observation, materialistic science holds that when the body disintegrates, the "self" ceases to exist because it's merely an emergent property of a complex physical system. Superficially, this perspective might seem internally consistent, but deeper exploration reveals that it's self-contradictory. With respect to self-awareness, for instance, we must ask, "What is the 'self' that's aware of its own existence?" It's the "self," of course, that materialism contends is a property, not an entity. Identifying self-awareness as an "illusion" is also exposed as self-contradictory by asking, "What is the entity that experiences the illusion?" That entity, too, is the "self."

The internal contradictions inherent in these examples result from the logical error of false objectification—i.e., imagining that subjective phenomena such as self-awareness and illusions can be objectively observed. In short, materialism sinks into its own quagmire when trying to explain away the "self."

Spiritists, who accept the idea of the self (typically identifying it as the "soul"), retort that persons either live or die because the spirit associated with the soul only temporarily animates the body. This leaves critical questions hanging: What do "soul" and "spirit" mean? Spiritism's quagmire does not allow an answer that's any more coherent than materialisms's conceptual chaos.

On the other hand, TES provides an answer that avoids both quagmires. Under TES, the subjectively identified "self" is identical to the SELF—the four-dimensional, pre-physical ("spiritual") entity that subscends natural systems of all orders of complexity, from photons to humans and beyond. The SELF animates the body, and death occurs when the SELF dissociates from the body.

The Self and the SELF

Though TES and spiritism superficially resemble each other, there are stark differences. The concept of SELF not only eliminates the need for an undefined "soul" and a mysterious "spirit," it also eliminates the need for a "mind." In short, the SELF not only animates the body, it performs all the operations traditionally attributed to "mind." That's how TES avoids both the materialist-spiritist problem and mind-body problem.

To animate a body, the SELF must be compatible with the physical structure. An essential aspect of this compatibility is that the size of the SELF must correspond to the complexity of the body it's associated with. This size corresponds to the discrete amount of enformy that sustains the SELF. Obviously, the amount of enformy associated with a human SELF is enormously greater than the amount of enformy associated with a photon. Correspondingly, a human body must be enormously more complex than a photon to associate with a human's enformy.

We're now prepared to ask, "What happens to the SELF when its associated body disintegrates?" Clearly, as the body loses complexity, it can no longer hold its associated SELF. But the SELF doesn't disappear. It's independent of the three-dimensional physical body it's associated with, so it continues to live—in four-space—when the body disintegrates. Further, because the fundamental behaviors of the SELF account for all of the elements of consciousness, the SELF continues to perceive, think, learn, remember, create, and communicate with others in the "afterlife."

Do these ideas have any support from empirical observation? They do. We can discover what happens to SELFs when their bodies begin to die by simply asking them about their experiences. We do this when we evaluate near-death experiences (NDEs)—the subjective reports of people whose bodies have died (by clinical criteria), then were restored to the living state. In the majority of NDE cases, the time period during which they are clinically dead corresponds to the critical time period after children develop ventricular fibrillation and before they are resuscitated. Thus NDEs occur if their bodies haven't disintegrated beyond a "point of no return," so to speak.

People consistently report that, while in the NDE state, they left their body and moved upwards from it to a position from which they observed the activities of the people who were working on their bodies. Many of them report that they remained connected to their bodies by a "silver thread," or similar bridge. At some point in their out-of-body travels, they entered a structure resembling a tunnel with an intense light at the end. They also found themselves surrounded by loved ones who have already died. At the end of the NDE, they "snapped" or "slammed" back into their bodies.

The consistency of content in these reported NDEs establishes their validity, and distinguishes them from idiosyncratic anecdotes. Materialistic hypotheses have been advanced to explain away NDEs, but all of these explanations presuppose some degree of brain functioning. However, these hypotheses fail in cases of suspended animation produced by hypothermic arrest, as in the famous case of Pam Reynolds.

Pam Reynolds experienced a typical NDE while undergoing a rare neurosurgical operation to remove a large aneurysm in her basilar artery. In preparation for the operation, her body temperature was lowered to 60 degrees, her heart action was stopped, and the blood was drained from her brain. As expected, her EEG and EKG went flat and she remained clinically dead for the duration of the long, delicate operation.

Pam reported that, while in this state, only her body was dead—she wasn't. She moved out of her body to a place where she could see the operation. After watching the procedure for awhile, she moved to a tunnel-like place with a light at the end where she heard her grandmother and other "dead" loved ones speaking to her. Ultimately, her loved ones discouraged her from proceeding further because "if I went all the way into the light something would happen to me physically. They would be unable to put 'this me' back into the 'body me,' like I had gone too far and they couldn't reconnect."

Significantly, Pam was able to remember and report these events even though her brain wasn't functioning at all at the time they occurred. Those who embrace the half-blind world-view of materialistic neuroscience believe that the brain is necessary to store and recall memories. In contrast, people who acknowledge the necessity of subjective observation realize that Pam's experience repudiates the dogmas of materialism. It's no surprise then, that materialistic scientists typically scorn, ignore, or dismiss observations of NDEs in general, not just Pam's.

TES explains NDEs handily. During the NDE state, the SELF is partly dissociated from the physical body, where it continues to perceive, think, learn, and recall. The SELF interprets its continued association with the body as the "silver thread." Further, when the body reaches a state of disintegration in which the SELF can no longer associate with it, the body dies, the "silver thread" is broken, and the SELF is free to proceed to its new "habitat."

This aspect of TES addresses the notion of "cryonics," a topic made famous in 2002 by the conflict between the son and daughter of baseball great, Ted Williams. Entrepreneurs have used hypothermic arrest to support the idea that dead bodies can be frozen to prevent disintegration, then revived at some time in the future and restored to health after their cause of death has been cured. Under TES, this is a false analogy because dead bodies, frozen or not, are non-enformed systems. Since the SELFs that animated the bodies before they died are long gone, reviving them would require the same magic that Dr. Frankenstein invoked.

A second type of experience that's outside the boundaries of neuroscience's world-view comprise the reports of children who remember elements of past lives, as verified and documented by Ian Stevenson and his colleagues. Obviously, neither brains nor any other structures are necessary for these recollections, because the bodies of the original people have long since disintegrated, and some have been cremated.

TES provides this explanation: The SELF of a person whose body has died continues to hold the enformation that comprises their memories, language, habits, and temperaments, and when that SELF animates a new physical structure, it can recall those memories. TES also predicts that SELFs don't necessarily remain intact. They can fragment into "sub-SELFs" during the dying process, then meld with other sub-SELFs to create new individuals. Under TES, melded SELFs account for the evolution of species.

A third type of observed data that contradict the materialistic world-view is that of "transplanted memories." A subset of people who have received transplanted organs such as hearts, lungs, livers, and kidneys discover that they acquired new impulses, preferences, and memories after their transplant operations. The idea that memories that are associated with organs other than the brain is unthinkable to materialistic neuroscientists, of course, but under TES, they are easy to explain. They reflect subsets of enformation contained in sub-SELFs of the individual that donated the organ. Further, it doesn't matter whether the donor is dead or alive. Living donors of livers and kidneys also donate subsets of their enformation along with their organs.

In sum, subjectively observed evidence from NDEs, memories of past lives, and transplanted memories must be explained by any theory of life and consciousness. Materialistic theories falsely objectify these phenomena, and spiritistic theories aren't compatible enough to provide a coherent, non-contradictory explanation. However, TES easily explains them as fundamental behaviors of SELFs.

Can Robots Die?

If robots can't die as humans do, they can't live as humans do, either. Thus, materialistic theories must require that robots can die, but under TES, this notion is ludicrous. Robots are non-enformed systems, and their organization depends entirely on the hardware, software, energy, and other necessities provided by their transcendent designers and makers. If left alone without these factors, they don't die like humans. They just disintegrate—though for many of their components, this might take a very long time.

Since robots can't live, they can't exhibit consciousness, either, because life and consciousness are inseparable. The best robots can do is mimic a subjective life, provided they are programmed to voice such concepts. This isn't difficult, of course. Even a cheap tape recorder can be "programmed" to say whatever its transcendent operator wants it to say.

Of course, materialists can argue that robots can recall "past lives" and "transplanted memories," provided they receive non-volatile storage devices from the other robots. However, they can't reasonably argue that, if all such devices are destroyed, the data they previously stored are available to the robot. Nor can they reasonably argue that robots can experience NDEs—including out-of-body experiences and "learning" by storing new data in disabled storage devices.

Interestingly, TES predicts one way that a robot can exhibit anthropomorphic life and consciousness. Since this notion is fanciful, we'll resort to fiction.

As a nerdy adolescent, Laylo Bark, an obsessed devotee of science fiction, withdrew from his family and peers and immersed himself in the world of robots. He had been so deeply immersed in that world for such a long time that by mid-life, he'd come to imagine that he was a robot.

One day, Laylo died. The SELF we identify as Laylo, dissociated from any physical structure, continued to believe he was a robot in the afterlife—though his telepathic experiences with other dissociated SELFs began to weaken his faith. Determined to prove that robots can be human, Laylo dreamed of a day that a physical human would build a machine complex enough to hold his enformy. Finally, after a couple of centuries, he found one.

Darwin Fling, a enthusiast of AI and Alife, had built a machine that he thought was sufficiently complex to live, but he couldn't get it started. His problem was, every part of the robot must start up simultaneously at full speed. Realizing he couldn't start it up in sections, he wished for a four-dimensional booting mechanism. One night, after getting a headache trying to solve this problem, Darwin disgustedly shut off the power to the machine and grumbled his way to bed.

After watching Darwin's struggle carefully, Laylo realized that, as a SELF, he was a four-dimensional entity that might be able to start the machine. He decided to take a chance. He associated himself with the machine, and after a few trials was able to animate it—everything at once. Naturally, as a SELF, he brought with him all the enformation he had accumulated.

The next morning, still grumbling, Darwin returned to his laboratory. To his astonishment, his machine grinned at him and said, "Hi! I'm Laylo. Thanks for allowing me to live on Earth again."

There's no value in extending this tale here. The point is, under TES, it's possible for a humanoid robot to live and experience consciousness—but only if (a) it's complex enough to hold a human-sized amount of enformy, and (b) it's animated by a pre-existing human SELF.

You might think I'm dogmatic in predicting that it's impossible to build living, conscious robots. I'm not, because I've maintained my skepticism. As a theorist, I know I'm relying on a theory—TES—for my predictions, and unlike many scientists, I also know that no theory can disprove observed facts. So I would happily pronounce that TES has been proven false if, sometime in the future, someone actually builds a robot that (a) lives and dies as humans do; (b) exhibits all the elements of consciousness; and (c) is not reincarnated from a pre-existing human. Until that time, however, I'm happy to rely on TES for my predictions because it is the only theory extant that explains life, death, consciousness—and much, much more.

The Theory of Enformed Systems

I promised above that you'll be rewarded when you learn how TES explains life and consciousness. I also promised that learning it would not be easy.

TES is difficult to learn because it's so radically different from the prevailing world-views. Ordinarily, we learn new material by comparing it with what we already know, so we're stymied when we encounter ideas that are completely unrelated to our prior knowledge. This doesn't make it impossible to learn new ideas, however, because we can bring our creativity and imagination into play. This often requires unlearning old ideas when they are obstacles to the new ones.

Of course, I can't teach anyone to imagine, and I can't make anyone unlearn what they've already learned. But the following scenario might help.

Imagine you're living in 17th century Europe, and you've been trained in science in one of the best universities. You've learned that heavy objects fall to the ground because they contain "gravity," and light objects such as smoke particles float upwards because they contain "levity." You've learned that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun, as Copernicus had postulated, but it's a mystery why they do this. And you've learned that, for one object to make another object move, they must be in physical contact; i.e., action-at-a-distance is impossible.

After you've graduated and taken a teaching position, you discover Newton's new theory. His mathematical method is strange, but after mastering it, you agree it is supported by the data. His theory explains why the planets revolve around the sun and why universal gravitation applies to heavy and light objects alike. There's no need for the notion of "levity," so you can unlearn this.

The problem is, despite its simplicity and its the great explanatory power, Newton's theory is very hard for you to believe. How, for instance, can huge planets be influenced at great distances by an invisible, intangible force?

You aren't alone. The action-at-a-distance inherent in Newton's theory is a great impediment to its acceptance to many of your peers, especially scientists in France. They've been assured by Descartes himself that action-at-a-distance is impossible.

But you're familiar with the history of science and natural philosophy, and scholastic dogmatism repulses you. You know that everything you've been taught can't be true. You decide it's a good time to exercise your skepticism and question Descartes' dictum. Suddenly, as if you'd thrown open a window, your world-view expands dramatically. Newton's theory becomes so agreeable that you decide to teach it to your own students. And you teach it for the rest of your life.

Now, imagine you've reincarnated in the present time, and though you don't remember your previous life, you've brought with you a strong interest in science and a healthy skepticism toward what you've been taught in school. You've been trained and enculturated in the materialistic world-view. You've studied TES, but interpreting it in terms of your world-view makes the theory impossible, or at least wildly bizarre.

You've learned, for instance, that organization is derivative, not fundamental. It's an attribute of systems that derive from the ways they operate under the laws of physics. You realize that considering information to be an organizer doesn't make sense because it's merely an expression of the ways systems are organized—and therefore information is not only physical, it's passive. Nevertheless, the idea that organization per se, i.e., enformation, pre-exists physical systems seems even more outlandish than the idea of action-at-a-distance had seemed to your scientific ancestors.

You've also learned, explicitly and tacitly, that only entities can do things. The idea that processes can occur by themselves seems completely absurd.

Yet, because TES explains many previously unexplained phenomena, including life and consciousness, you're willing to exercise your skepticism and question your world-view. You ask yourself, "What if a process creates everything? What if organization per se is fundamental, not derivative. What if enformation pre-exists and is foundational to physical systems?"

By asking these questions, and by deciding to unlearn some of the doctrines you've learned before, you've opened new windows to seeing the universe. You're on your way to your reward!

Though TES is a theory of all natural systems, from the simplist to the most complex, it might be easiest to understand it first as a theory of human consciousness.

The study of "consciousness" is gaining momentum in academic circles today, though the majority of philosophers and scientists who write about it don't define it. Indeed, they don't even agree on whether consciousness is an entity, state, process, phenomenon, or emergent property.

We can be more specific. As it applies to humans, I define the word consciousness as the name of a polymorphous set including, but not limited to, the following elements:

• psychological experience, including self-awareness, intention, sensation, perception, cognition, memory, learning, curiosity, creativity, intelligence, intention, intuition, emotion, social bonding, collective unconscious, altered states, dissociation, multiple personalities, and lucid dreaming;

• parapsychological and psychic phenomena, including precognition, telepathy, remote viewing, psychokinesis (micro-PK, bio-PK, retro-PK), medical intuition, energy healing, psychometry, synchronicity phenomena, apparitions, mediumship, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, evidence suggesting reincarnation; and

• non-experiential, radically related phenomena, including life per se, the evolution of species, morphogenesis, "morphic resonance," quantum entanglement, "water memory", and the homing behavior of pigeons and other animals.

A theory that doesn't explain all of these phenomena doesn't adequately explain any of them. TES is the only theory that explains all of them.

I won't repeat descriptions of TES that have appeared elsewhere. Instead, you can take these links to these abstracts, papers, and essays:

The first published paper on the enformy posit is "Enformy: The Capacity to Organize," which is Chapter 19 in Thinking on the Edge, edited by R. A. Kapnick and A. A. Kelly (Burbank, CA: Agamemnon Press 1993.) This essay describes the enformy posit, which is the foundation of TES.

After developing TES, I presented this paper at the annual meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration in 1997: "Enformy and Enformed Gestalts: A Radical Theory of Consciousness." Later, at the suggestion of Gary Schwartz, I replaced the term gestalts with systems, and coined the acronym SELF to replace the terms egon and ipseon.

The most complete treatment of TES to date is the paper, "The Theory of Enformed Systems: A Paradigm of Organization and Holistic Systems," coauthored with Gary Schwartz and Linda Russek. It was published in The Noetic Journal 2(2), 159-172 April, 1999.

To provide a broader context for TES, Berney Williams and I wrote this "Introduction to the Theory of Enformed Systems," which was cited above.

If you're interested in the history of TES, you can read "Development of the Enformy Theory," which I last updated in 1998.

Other related papers can be found on the Enformy Page of my website.


According to TES, living, conscious robots are impossible because they are non-enformed systems, and life and consciousness occur only in enformed systems. The differences between these types of systems are summarized in this table:

Differences between Enformed and Non-enformed Systems

Enformed systems
(e.g., humans)

Non-enformed systems
(e.g., robots)

Naturally occurring wholes Artificially constructed collections of parts
Greater than the sums of their parts Simple sums of their parts
Organized by a subscendent process Organized by transcendent entities
Not subject to the entropy law Governed by the entropy law
Associated with SELFs Not associated with SELFs
Live and die Can't live, can't die

draft: 06/12/05