I may be a simpleton and completely deluded, but (against Aurino's sage advice) I have developed a model of reality in my mind, with significant input from Dick and everything else I have ever heard or learned, and this model provides me with answers to every question I have ever heard, and, the answers make sense to me. No kidding.
My model is based on the fundamental premiss that "God only knows". That is, that there is only a single consciousness or sentience in the entire reality. So, you could if you like say, as Chris Langan has concluded, that the universe itself is sentient or cognizant.
So, then, the obvious questions that pop up are, What about us? Aren't we sentient? Aren't we humans conscious and can't we think? And what about my dog?
Well, my simplistic but satisfactory answer to those questions is that we (the seemingly sentient things) are remote-controlled vehicles-with-sensors that are "driven" by the one-and-only consciousness in the sky. Much like driving a race car (I owe this metaphor to Alan) the "driving" of one of us organisms is so demanding, and the required two-way communication channel is so slow and restrictive, that during the "while" that one of us is being "driven", the one-and-only consciousness is so pre-occupied that it seems like the local environment of that particular organism is all there is, and that the seat of consciousness is somewhere inside the body of the organism.
Now, this gets a shade more complex than "simplistic" when I try to explain why I put "while" in quotes in the above paragraph. That is because the "while" as perceived from the perspective of one of the "driven" organisms is a succession of moments in a dimension of time that is the familiar dimension of time we all measure with clocks and calendars. The one-and-only consciousness, on the other hand, when perceived from the perspective of the universe, is operating in a completely different dimension of time. And from this higher dimension of time, our earth-time is really a static dimension of space.
That concept is not as mind-boggling as it might seem. If you think of the "dimension of time" that is part of a movie you are watching, or a video game you are playing, it is easy to see that that dimension of time does not correspond to the dimensioon of time you operate in as a movie-watcher or a video game-player.
Mike, you posed this profoundly difficult enigma:
***Unless life forms are only mechanical, random inputs will disturb the LOCAL statistical distribution in some parts of the universe. To show the entire universe to be mechanical, e would have to show that free will is a mirage and that other forms of life's quirky behavior are compmletely predictable after all (at the statistical level being discussed.)***
Yes, it would seem to be very difficult to resolve this. But, I think my scheme explains it very nicely.
Life forms are only mechanical in the sense that a car is only mechanical. Without a driver consciously exercising free will and applying small occasional forces on one or more controls, the car will never get from point A to point B. It will either sit still (either stopped or idling), or it will crash. In the absence of the driver, the car and its local environment will move according to the strict laws of physics with no exceptions.
When you add the driver, you don't get violations of the laws of physics, but you do get the old mind-body problem: How on earth can the conscious intent of the driver influence the inexorable laws of physics and "cause" that car to go from A to B?
Well, in my scheme the wiggle room for this phenomenon is in the putative "random" behavior of particles at the quantum level. If, somehow, the one-and-only consciousness, in the process of driving my body while I am driving my car, after deciding to turn the steering wheel to the left, can cause the right pattern of neurons in my brain to fire, they will cascade into a series of physical effects strictly according to the laws of physics, and pull off the stunt of turning that wheel, and thus the car, and thus maybe the course of the rest of human history.
Now, what might it take to get that pattern of neurons to fire? Well, I think science might be getting close to answering that. My guess is that the one-and-only consciousness can deliberately, purposefully, and with intent aforethought, arrange for a particular pattern of quantum events to occur in the dimers of the microtubules of the said neurons. This pattern of events would cause the little things to quiver in just the right way to get the neurons to fire in just the right way. No laws of physics are broken here because that deliberately chosen pattern of quantum events, as seen by the scientists, appear to be acausal and completely random.
So free will is not a mirage; that left turn was deliberately and consciously chosen and the quirky behavior of my car in response to my driving, in spite of being completely unpredictable by any scientist's equations, is still completely consistent with a mechanical world.
I'm trying to get ready to leave town for a few days, but your post was so provocative, Mike, that I couldn't resist dashing this explanation off to you.