Tuesday, April 10, 2012

it is a strange and wonderful universe

i read this op-ed piece in the LATimes the other day. it's written by a professor from arizona state (one of my many alma maters or is it almas mater?).  it's an editorial piece about science and the universe and particle physics and quantum mechanics and a little bit about religion - so light reading. it's not too long, so it's worth popping over and reading it.

as i am wont to do, i've been thinking a lot about it and i even shared it on facebook. as much as i loathe facebook (way more than google, but slightly less than flickr), it is a good place for discussion of such things. one of my friends said this: "Very interesting. We come from nothing... and return to nothing. Confirmation of such will only strengthen blind belief in God - simply because the idea of nothingness is just too enormous and unbearable. IMHO." my initial response to that was, "sad, but undoubtedly true." but it haunted me a little bit.

why is the idea of nothingness too enormous and unbearable? because we have constructed it as such, not because it actually IS too enormous and unbearable. doesn't the notion that we are hurling through a universe of ever-receding and ever-expanding, intangible nothingness actually match very nicely a feeling that occasionally nags us from somewhere deep inside anyway?  to try to explain it through some divine creator lets us off the hook in a way that i don't think is proving to be good for us or for the planet.

i am actually comforted by the notion that the universe could have spontaneously been created out of nothing due to some uncertainty principle. this, for me, fits with life in general - everything is uncertain, as much as we try our best to control it. to know that there is an actual uncertainty principle at work explains a lot.  and i don't find at all that it makes life meaningless or purposeless - on the contrary, it seems that more than ever, life is precisely what we make of it.


Missouri Bend Paper Works said...

Wow....this post should provoke some discussion! I'm totally with you in my thinking, though. Contrary to being a depressing notion, the randomness of it all is so fascinating and for me makes everything more precious. I don't see why it is any harder to believe that than the simplistic explanations that many find comfort in. Thanks for this post...I'll have to go read that post when I have more time!! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I grapple with the nothingness and making (wanting to make) meaning of events constantly, but I find your post(and the article you link to) so beautifully said. It IS all so much more precious because I can't explain or control or understand it. I almost can't take the beauty of it all.

Jess said...

I completely agree with you and have also never understood why some people can't come to terms with the nothingness, unbearable and too enormous is the perfect way to put it.
And I also agree that is does explain the nagging notion - I love this train of thought.

will said...

You’re sooo wrong! First of all, humans have purpose, most of our purpose is cosmic but we are also meant to steer the Earth towards the nearest galaxy in order to meet-up with superior aliens on a large factory planet ... they’re ones who invented us.

We got in the habit of calling them gods because, when they first built the earth and us, they looked at their messy creations and said, “God damn that’s a bunch of ugly!”

Naturally all we remembered was their first word, “God” so now we cal them, ‘God’. And because the first humans didn’t walk gracefully or smoothly and they kept falling down, as they fell they muttered “God ....”. From that prayer was invented and then that was further reenforced by thousands of spastics, assorted seizure types and epileptics since they were perpetual stumblers, calling out “God!” as the groveled for breath. That really impressed the other early humans.

Anyway, as we steer the Earth towards the next galaxy to meet the guys who do planetary maintenance (we’re long past our 6 billion year lube and filter change) we should remember, we have a place in the Scheme Of It All. The Gods willingly buy our scrap metal, extra plastic bags and they’re very fond of chocolate and Coors beer.

Once we exchange repairs for our stuff and garbage, we will be pushed to another dimension in time and space. And if the exchange rate favors us (the God’s are notorious horse traders) so we might end up in a bible-koran-torah-country music-republican free zone. But that’s another story.

julochka said...

thank you bill - i so needed a laugh at this moment. just brilliant.

patti, mel & jess, i thank you as well.

i am happy to be hurtling through the nothingness with all of you! :-)