Soup Manifesto

by Bernard D Mayes

-an ongoing exploration of existence

* What’s going on?

According to relatively recent research, some of it undertaken in the last century, everything, living and non-living, our world and the universe around us can be said to be only energy  interacting with itself. This working force takes many forms from the sub-atomic particles that make up everything to electro-magnetic forces like light, gravity, radio waves, objects that seem solid such as vegetables, our bodies, planet Earth, seemingly the ’dark matter’ of outer space, and even ideas that are the product of our neurons. Thus everything is on the move, often so slowly we cannot see or feel it, often so fast it boggles the mind, a vast mixture similar to an enormous soup in which everything is always being redistributed.   [1]

[1] The abstract nature of the term ‘energy’ is well explained in Brian L. Silver’s Ascent of Science (Oxford 1998) p.6 , 402   Another helpful  definition can be found in Galileo‘s Finger, The Ten Great Ideas of Science - Peter Atkins (Oxford 2003) p.83. The term was first used as a modern  concept in 1807 by the versatile physicist Thomas Young.  An alternative to soupism might be  Energism but less tasty!  A possible final state of the system is explained by Theodore Arabatzis and Kostas Gavroglu in The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science Ed. J. L. Heilbron  (Oxford 2003) and depends upon the amount of mass available.

[2] Neil A. Campbell Biology (Benjamin /Cummings 1993) p.427  This is the essence of  ‘natural selection’.

How does it all work?

The soup of energy of which everything is formed interacts within itself according to the ‘laws’ of physics.  With time tiny particles form which coalesce first into atoms, molecules, amalgams, and objects such as stars and planets; then by natural selection from single cells into more complex organisms such as plants and animals. These changes occur sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly. Thus not only are we ourselves slowly evolving, we may reasonably assume that among the billions of stars and their planets that exist there may be some where other organisms have also occurred and may have a similar history. 3

[3] Brian L. Silver Ascent of Science (Oxford 1998 p.214, 402, 411 also Neil A Campbell Biology (Benjamin/Cummings 1993) p.657

* How did it ‘begin’

We have learned that the total energy from which everything is formed can never be increased or decreased, thus it has neither a beginning nor an end.  Our present expanding universe appears to have resulted from the dispersal of a tightly knit bundle of energy.[4]

* Where does it all ‘lead’ ?

The interaction of energy within our universe has resulted in the development of life in all its many forms by natural selection from single cells to complex organisms with neurological systems we call brains. Our own brains have  also constructed civilizations (collections of ideas and artifacts).  The evolutionary drive behind such developments is for survival made possible by reproduction;  protection from the elements, predators and competitors; and nourishment. Our ‘minds’, meaning the working of our brains and nervous system,  have also thought up abstract ‘purposes’ such as ‘happiness’, obedience to imagined divine plans, or even communion with the energy of which all is composed;  otherwise existence itself leads nowhere.

* Does god exist?

The belief that a supernatural divinity or divinities can exist outside, beyond or even immanent within energy is ancient and appears to depend for its persuasive power upon the comfort or fear it imparts to its loyal followers.  In fact,  such ideas are myths thought up by human brains. The idea of a Creator who began things is recessive and thus meaningless: creators also need creators, and so on.  The number of different and often competing gods and goddesses still believed in around the world is due to lack of education about the nature of existence.

 [8]  See Kenneth V. Iserson Death to Dust GalenPress Tucson 1994 p.41-43, 310-314 also  Death's Acre -

inside the Legendary Forensic Lab: The Body Farm Where The Dead Do Tell Tales - Dr Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson (Putnam N.Y. 2003)

[9] Neil A Campbell - Biology 3rd ed. (Benjamin Cummings Pub. Co 1993)  p. 947.

* What do natural catastrophes signify?

The surface of the planet upon which we live and where we have evolved is not entirely stable. The center core of the planet has been found to be liquid iron under immense pressure, surrounded by relatively liquid magma upon which the land and oceans float and move like gigantic plates. Moreover, the very thin layer of gaseous atmosphere in which the earth is enveloped is also always on the move, driven by winds resulting from changes of temperature caused by differences in terrain, the earth’s spin and the sun’s radiation. Earthquakes, storms, lightning and exploding volcanoes are thus to be expected until the forces within and around our planet finally subside. Meanwhile the arrival of asteroids and comets into the area from outer space, together with the future changes in the sun pose further threats to our survival. As if these facts were insufficient to warn us of potential catastrophe, our own activities and proliferation have  also caused a deterioration in our living conditions that if unheeded could result in our near or total extinction. Such an immensely threatening scenario, long observed but hitherto ignored seems to confirm us to be chance organisms within an otherwise neutral universe.[10]   

[10] See also Denys Wilkinson Our Universes (Columbia 1991) p.186 foll. for an interesting assessment of other universes.

[11] See Francis Crick - The Astonishing Hypothesis - the Scientific Search for the Soul (Scribners 1994) also Max Delbruck - Mind from Matter ? (Blackwell 1986) p.83-4  Ken Wilber has suggested the existence of a common consciousness/soul as have others such as Spinoza: see Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, the Spirit of Evolution  Ken Wilber (Shambaha 1995) . Meanwhile, Roger Penrose (Shadows of the Mind – A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness (Oxford 1994)) argues for an ingredient other than or within our neurological system that enables self-awareness.

* What about Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Hinduism and the Buddha?

Ancient devotional literature ascribed miraculous powers and supernatural authority  to Jesus as to Moses, Muhammad, the many Hindu gods and even to the Buddha, as well as to the records themselves.   These claims (‘scriptures’) depended upon prior beliefs not only that a divinity exists but also that it interferes in human affairs, making such beliefs the basis of religious observance and  often obscuring even the original messages of the founders.  Over the centuries such  observances have become increasingly encumbered with speculative and even conflicting theologies along with tyrannical rituals, seemingly uninformed by, and often indifferent to, the discovered facts of existence. [12]

[12 ]See Derek Parfitt - How both Human History and the History of Ethics may be Just Beginning  a final essay in Ethics ed. Peter Singer (Oxford 1994) p.39

* Is science our only key to the truth?

The word ‘science’ refers to methods of research, analysis, testing and proof used to obtain reliable knowledge of the working of our bodies (including our brains) and our physical environment.    No other method has been shown to be as fully reliable for discovering facts. At the same time our brains have constructed intellectual and emotional environments such as music, painting and literature, as well as politics and religion. Musical tones, for example, can be analyzed scientifically, but the full musical experience remains private. The term ‘truth’ is thus an abstraction that can refer both to scientifically proved facts and to personal thoughts and feelings within the realm of the so-called soft sciences dependent upon complex mental and cultural processes.

* Will everything come to an end?

Careful observations of the universe around us have shown that the energy of which everything is composed is eternal and always the same amount.   It  is constantly being redistributed slowly or rapidly in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics. [13]

[13] See  Ascent of Science   - Brian L. Silver (Oxford 1998) pp209-250 and especially page 471.   Rudolph  J .E. Clausius (1822-88) coined ‘entropy’ to describe some of  the process in1865.  

* Does faith matter?

What we believe to be true tends to affect the way we behave. If we believe teaching that in fact is false we are likely to make dangerous mistakes not only of perception (that red is green) but also of judgment (that wrong is right). Leaders who claim incontrovertible divine authority for their teaching regardless of established facts may thus mislead their faithful. Careful assessment of factual evidence is thus a more reliable guide to behavior than is trust in teaching without it. Faith is often loyalty to a former belief that continues to demand allegiance regardless of facts or new discoveries; when this happens it can become counter-productive.

According to the latest research, our species shares with a number of others a genetic history lasting millions of years and originating with the chemical synthesis of certain molecules coalescing into single cells, the original basis of all subsequent life.  The animals and plants on our planet are thus the eventual outcome of an infinite number of tiny changes to the original cells made over the millennia, many determined by some advantage they afforded their possessor in the struggle to survive and it is this shared genetic history that reveals our relationship with various other animal species.[14]

[14] For a chart see fig.20.15  p.434 in Neil A Campbell - Biology 3rd ed. (Benjamin Cummings Pub.  Co 1993).

* Is evolution true?

Evolution, or the explanation of how so many different species of living things came about, has been shown to be reliable. In the nineteenth century when Charles Darwin and A. R. Wallace first worked out the theory from their extensive exploration and discoveries, it was thought by many religious people to be incorrect, if not immoral, because it conflicted with existing interpretation of ancient writings to which church-going people remained loyal. Today, the facts of evolution along with those derived from additional modern observations are largely accepted as beyond doubt. The way evolution works is often misstated as being the sum of chance development.  In fact, organisms develop according to cause and effect:  if this, then that, and if it survives, it is likely to be incorporated into subsequent generations. This inevitably results in an orderly succession of changes known as ‘natural selection’. Depending on the nature of the organism and its environment, the changes may take a short or long time.

* What about the Big Bang?

The explosion that is assumed to have been the moment when our universe came into being from an extremely dense collection of energy is often incorrectly described as a ‘beginning’ of the whole of existence. It may be the start or beginning of our expanding universe as we know it, but it cannot be the beginning of all energy for without already existing energy the explosion could not have taken place. It is the logic of this that shows the existence of energy in whatever state to be eternal. Even  a final state of equilibrium does not imply the annihilation of energy.

*  What have we to look forward to?

Examination of the star nearest earth (our ‘sun’) has revealed a history not unlike other stars that have eventually died out, often catastrophically

If humans are still around at that time far into the future, it is likely that we will also perish as a species unless we have discovered ways to protect our planet or we are living somewhere else in the universe. Even in this scenario, the energy of which we and everything else is composed will continue to exist, interact and may even form new worlds that in turn may give birth to new life. [15]

   [15]   See   Brian L. Silver - Ascent of Science (Oxford 1998) p.224

    End  of  Manifesto

c.  Bernard Duncan Mayes


Photo Credits:

Thornton Staples: the ancient port of Miletus where the first Soupist theorist (Thales) was born!

Tim Goetting:

3. Sandy Snyder

4. Ira W. Snyder, Jr., circa 1950, Korea

5-8. Tim Goetting

9. Sandy Snyder

10. Tim Goetting

Joyce Dudek

Tim Goetting


Joyce Dudek

* What’s it all for? The interacting soup of energy in which we, our world and the universe around exist is without any overall plan or purpose. Planning for the future is a neurological device from which humans and other animals benefit. [2]

 *  What’s it all for?

[4] Evidence for a ‘Big Bang’ is the Hubble Recession (meaning expansion) discovered by E.P.Hubble 1929 and microwave background radiation discovered by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson in 1965. See also Max Delbruck Infinity; Logical Paradoxes in Mind from Matter? (Blackwell 1986)

* What about morality?

[5] See Richard Dawkins -The Selfish Gene (Oxford 1989)  p.331

[6] Id ib Chapter 5  

[7] A compilation of fundamental ideas about  ethics  and morality is to be found in Ethics - Peter Singer (Oxford Readers 1994)

Our history as a species originating from single cells recommends concentrating upon our universal need for food and safety. Since these needs are basic and if not achieved will result in our extinction, our governments and political, economic, social, educational and environmental systems should attend to the safety and sustenance of the individual, our communities and the environment. To this end, the peaceful coexistence of all would seem essential so that our innate greed, brutality and selfishness would become inoperable.5 The discoveries of psychology, genetics, biology and even history, harnessed to achieve these benefits would help end war, genocide and injustice, again so that we can survive and live mutually beneficial lives. As for personal morality, many have been the attempts by persuasive leaders to provide us with codes of good behavior. Much trust has often been placed in judgments that are determined by the pain, pleasure or usefulness they achieve measured by the numbers experiencing it. But justice and fairness have also been recommended as measures of an action’s advisability. At the same time, our interdependence upon each other would seem to require behavior that promotes safety for all; indeed, this may be the basis of natural altruism observed in many animal species including humans [7]. Consequently, our personal morality should recommend respect for others, regardless of difference, aim to diminish fear and prejudice, and abandon practices and beliefs, however ancient or revered, that may result in pain and suffering. 6

What about religion?

Most religions depend for their meaning upon a conviction that in addition to the energy from which everything comes to be there also exist supernatural intelligent beings called gods or souls. These are complex ideas thought up by human minds to compensate for millennia of ignorance about the nature of matter and the working of the human brain. Thus, myths were devised to explain whatever was not understood,  to impart comfort or to instill obedience.  To allow ourselves to remain in thrall to such beliefs by means of traditional group rituals and regardless of confirmed facts can undermine our self-esteem as adult members of an informed society and lead to irrational behavior, cruelty, and even destructive war.

* What happens after death?

When the human body is unable to hold itself together and for one reason or another its heart ceases to beat, blood no longer feeds the brain and the interacting electrical signals within the brain’s complex neurological systems cease to fire, ending the brain’s perception of existence. The other myriad cells which make up the rest of the body also cease functioning and collapse upon each other. No longer able to ward off the many miniscule organisms and animals which naturally inhabit the body, the cells become food for them until they are replaced by other animals from the outside which are attracted by the scent of gasses then being given off. Left to itself in the open air our unclothed body will be eaten and so help form the bodies of a large number of other animals, small and big, inside a week. Whether entombed or cremated, our parts are thus ultimately redistributed among plants, animals and subsequently among other humans. Since this is the history of living things, it can be stated with certainty not only that we are formed both from the physical environment and from the bodies of other living organisms including humans, but also that our energies become part of them. [8]

* What happens before birth?

The interactions within an organism which we describe as ‘life’ are not confined to the fully developed human body but occur within all organic cells. The spermatozoa and the ova are thus fully alive, even before their coalescence at the moment of conception. In time and in response to its genes, the living zygote divides into further living cells which differentiate into specialized tissue such as bones, neurons and various organs. Many other cells are later discarded as unneeded. It seems the early neurological patterns that later become the more fully developed brain may also preserve memories of their existence within the womb though as yet incapable of self-awareness. Indeed, until the umbilical chord to which the fetus is attached is separated from the mother’s placenta, the fetus remains part of the mother’s body. 9 The idea that un-bodied ‘souls’ are waiting to enter new bodies is a self-promoting circular fantasy devised to support ancient beliefs in supernatural forces themselves dependent upon the prior existence of ‘souls’ and for which there is neither need nor evidence.

* Does the individual immortal human soul exist?

The ancient and long standing idea that each human (and probably other animals) experiences a sense of ‘self’ in addition to other bodily sensations is a result of the proliferation of neurons and the permutation and combination of their neurological signals. These signals interact with or reflect upon each other producing what we describe as ‘self awareness’. Indeed, because of our invention of language, we can even ‘talk’ to ourselves, an extraordinary achievement. However, we are not always self-conscious and can often go about our lives without ‘thinking’ just as other animals seem to do. Self-observation thus appears to arise spontaneously within the brain. Historically, it has been this ability that once appeared to justify a belief in souls as separate from the physical body and acting as its ‘director’. When the idea of separate souls began to spread, it was hoped, then assumed and finally taught that they were immortal, were answerable to moral laws imposed by the teachers, and could even influence us from an after life.11  But at death the ‘self’ and its neurological patterns dissipate and their energy is taken up by other objects or animals in the course of the actual process by which all our bodily parts are randomly redistributed.

* How are we relatied to other animals?