Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Face in the Stone

 There are many metaphors for the human tendency to assemble an argument from useless or irrelevant fragments. "grasping at straws" comes easily to mind but the desperation of a drowning person isn't a prerequisite to finding order, a coherent narrative and even 'proof' of a conjecture in randomness.  At breakfast every morning I stare at a granite counter top with as yet uncaffeinated eyes and see a myriad of faces and recognizable forms.  Evolution has designed our brains to identify faces in the weeds and  probably to identify other things that are not there. Better after all to flee the tiger that isn't there than to be eaten by the one that is.

Once you see that face, it's hard thereafter to see it as random assemblages of feldspar or mica or other minerals.  The eye hangs on, the way we hang on to other constructs we form out of the randomness of  being.  Once you've had Orion pointed out in the sky, you'll always see those stars as the hunter that isn't there and who never existed -- and apparently, once you decide that some sentient physical entity caused for instance, a particular Uranium nucleus to fission, it's nearly impossible to see it any other way, even though it's so random there's no way to predict the phenomenon. "If it happened, something caused it to happen" is the genesis of  theology and science emphatically does not support that assertion. Something indeed does come out of nothing and "nothingness" itself  is a condition we imagine but does not exist.

It becomes increasingly obvious that what we call the "Big Bang" occurred nearly 14 billion years ago and what we now see as the Universe expanded from a singularity at an incomprehensibly high rate: so much faster in the first instant that it's current limits are far beyond the distance we will ever be able to see. A discovery announced Monday of ripples in space-time or gravity waves are said to be evidence for that brief time of rapid inflation in the nanoseconds after "the beginning" which seems to be another piece of evidence that Einsteins predictions were right and "inflation" occurred. It's said to fit in with models including multiple universes.  It's a profound moment for cosmology and for the prevailing model of how the universe we perceive began.

But wouldn't you know it, the faithful see it otherwise -- as proof of the idea that a sentient entity who looks like us is behind it all.  It's proof, says Leslie A. Wickman, special to of the Biblical Genesis story.  It's nothing of the sort, of course, but in a construct some will not recognize as a decoy, Wickman asserts that the results of this new development offers "strong support for biblical beliefs." and that "it adds scientific support to the idea that the universe was caused – or created – by something or someone outside it and not dependent on it."

If in fact some argue that universes arise from some  random fluctuations in other universes, inflating into themselves as they separate forever from the host universe, it hardly fits the assumption of a God of any description. No condition that created all we see can persist as an entity today any more than we can travel to another universe. It's more than a stretch to say that the observations of polarized light through an Antarctic telescope have anything to do with a god, anthropomorphic, Biblical or not. But such is the parasitic nature of  religion, changing our eyes to see prescribed patterns in randomness, to see proof of God -- of a certain God in yet another piece of evidence that there is nothing even vaguely like that in this universe or elsewhere, nor is such an entity necessary or even useful to describe it's origins.  The implication that we can somehow attach all the ancient baggage we are liable to find in the Bible to a fallacious fabrication erroneously based on intentionally misunderstood scientific observation gives, I think, "strong support" to the idea of  our precious and often beautiful theology as hokum riding on conjecture born of blind ignorance.

The notion that the increasingly substantiated model of  the Big Bang answers any kind of ontological question like "who caused it," stems from the  assertion that for something to happen, something or someone must cause it, is the kind of common sense notion prevents us from seeing beyond our tiny frame of reference. Just as I see faces, usually human faces in the stone, we see in nature what isn't there and what we see is a reflection of us. In fact the stone contains nothing, and we are not able to see in it what we can't recognize elsewhere.

If it's indeed possible that some human may be able to create a new universe that immediately detaches from ours and inflates into itself like ours, it doesn't suggest that he who flips the switch is God or that she has any further influence on the course of history contained in that new place forever inaccessible to us.  Even less does the possibility that this is a natural and universal condition with universes budding off into some unimaginable hyperverse argue for "Biblical Beliefs."  It argues for some staggering sense of awe inherent in the infinite not in how we reduce the infinite to fit our biological limits.  If there is some universe of universe that may even be a mote itself in other universes -- if there is a reality in the infinitely small where nothing is true and everything is permitted, it hardly argues for anything whatever in our religions.  It argues instead that what we see has mostly to do with what we want to see. We want to see our significance and the significance of what we do and think and what we are.

So is there a God?   Is that in fact a question or an attempt to package a vast number of conjectures as an answer?  Maybe the answer is in the question: "what do you mean by God?" After all, the very word God is a concept smaller than the limitlessness of reality. Do atheists believe in nothing at all?  As Frank Moraes says so pithily: "So we have our gods, they just aren't anything that would be recognized by theists."   Perhaps reality itself isn't recognizable by Theists or the the faces in the stone aren't faces or in the stone.

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