Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Cosmic Perspective: The Ego Centered Universe?

For me, small talk sometimes includes the controversial topics of politics, philosophy and religion. And because of this, I've met many people who hold to the view that the cosmos or universe has a plan for them, and that it's responding to their lives. I remember years ago meeting these two women at a bar and one of the women said to me that she knew for sure that certain events in her life have been put there by some spirit force to teach her some kind of life lesson. I asked her how she knew for sure, and she responded that it just couldn't have come naturally (!). I tried to cast some doubt into her by making the usual skeptical arguments but it was futile. This went on for a few more minutes before I eventually got bored.

But the point I'm getting at is that the natural human personality is always searching for answers, it's always searching for meaning and pattern. I myself have even fallen victim to this way of thinking at times and I know how it works. If there isn't any skepticism present that is built off our knowledge that the cosmos doesn't operate with us in mind, most people will delve into the superstitious pattern seeking mentality where every event, no matter how random it is, will become seen as some interconnected sign to produce change in your life.

When I take a big step back and look at the cosmos and try to imagine the immensity of it and how tiny and insignificant I am in the face of it, and how I am made of the same star dust as the cosmos is, I cannot come to the conclusion as many others do that it's all designed with a purpose for me. That is to me the very definition of narcissism. I am a part of the cosmos, but I am not the purpose of the cosmos. That's why theists to me never really seem that humble, they actually appear quite the opposite.

Why is it that there is a much higher percentage of atheism and agnosticism amongst scientists? Well, one reason is that as you become an expert in your field and as you understand how things actually work and the mechanisms behind them, the mystery of it is taken away. It's kind of like being amazed by a magic trick and really thinking it's magic, and then once you learn how it's done you're suddenly not moved by it anymore. Once you learn how physics and biology actually work, the mystery of their mechanisms disappears. Science cannot work assuming supernatural mechanisms are at work. The moment a scientist faced with a difficult problem folds his or her arms and says "God did it!", they cease doing science. If scientists had done that from the start, we'd still think lightening and thunder were caused by angry gods.

A growing number of people are finding the scientific story of how the cosmos came to be and our place in it to be just as beautiful and poetic as any tale from religion. We might find it even more beautiful because we know it is true! There's no reason to water it down with metaphor and nonsense, it's just as beautiful as it is. Perhaps the greatest story ever told throughout the cosmos will be the actual story of how the cosmos came to be from nothing to everything, and we'll be able to share this creation story with all intelligent life that exists.

I wonder what it would be like if we actually did contact intelligent life from elsewhere in the cosmos. The theological implications would be enormous, and there are theologians already prepared for that possibility by taking the position that god may have created other life elsewhere. But if we ever did get visited by alien intelligent life, and we found they had discovered all the same fundamental laws of physics as we have, and they were a post-religious society who long ago discarded their creation myths in favor of science, I think we could them safely conclude that our creation myths and deities were a product of our wild imaginations.

And that is the cosmic perspective for now.....

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