Posts Tagged science
What I find most fascinating about science is that, when combined with a natural human inclination to wonder, and therefore to invent religious perspectives – read metaphysical and contemplation – a real potential for true understanding emerges. true observation of what really is combined with intuitive understanding of why.
Science by itself isn’t enough, although it’s discipline and focus and precision are wonderful, and it’s ability to reveal actual process, and to show how the world about us operates. But it has to be combined with an open mind and a sense that anything is possible in order to deal with the why question. And for that to happen, you have to be infatuated with the puzzling, astonishing and beautiful nature of what you’re seeing, and to want to understand it, and the truth that underlies it. And to wonder why and how it’s beautiful, and what that might mean.
This doesn’t imply a religious – and therefore inexplicable and often nonsensical – requirement to true understanding. It means that science and the scientific method can take us so far at any given point in understanding, and to progress further, we need also to accept intuition and imagination as useful tools in determining the veracity of what we know, and how to determine a way forward. Sometimes intuition gives us a picture of scenarios that seem to be outlandish and unlikely. Or they might suggest factors that are a result of process – for example, if math explains all process, perhaps beauty is an emergent property of a level of understanding that we should appreciate having been achieved as a result of process.
This combination of wanting to understand the process, but also needing to know the why, and to be willing to accept that beauty is also a significant factor, must surely be why intelligence has come to be. The universe must know itself, otherwise why is it?
Careful analysis and understanding of the process needs to be combined with a deeper knowledge, which is why what is is, in order to sum a truth that’s beyond merely factual. Because it’s only subjective experience that gives rise to factual experience. So where does that deeper interpretation of why that experience was possible come from? Where does objective understanding come from?
This is the thing that puzzles and intrigues me. Understanding how things happen is one thing, understanding why they are is something at a different level.
EDIT: Quote ” Something there is that can refresh and revivify older people: joy in the activities of the younger generation — a joy, to be sure, that is clouded by dark forebodings in these unsettled times. And yet, as always, the springtime sun brings forth new life, and we may rejoice because of this new life and contribute to its unfolding; and Mozart remains as beautiful and tender as he always was and always will be. There is, after all, something eternal that lies beyond the hand of fate and of all human delusions. And such eternals lie closer to an older person than to a younger one oscillating between fear and hope. For us, there remains the privilege of experiencing beauty and truth in their purest forms.” (Albert Eintein)
Humans tend to assume that they have a degree of intelligence that gives them awareness that isnt afforded other species.
Criteria that are used to justify this perspective include lack of evidence of empathy, of emotions including fear and sadness, and of gratitude. Or an ability to assess a given context, and to calculate an appropriate response to it.
Every day, visible instances occur that prove these assumptions are just wrong. They imply an arrogance in humanity that is breathtaking. Other creatures are sufficiently sentient to respond to both circumstance and to other creatures as we are. How could they be alive otherwise?
Here’s a small example:
We have to reappraise our relationship with the rest of the world. To imagine that we’re somehow seperate from it is folly. The whole system that we observe and are able to analyse because its systemic, includes us as a key component. As it does every other creature. This is what makes it a system. How to extrapolate this? Discussions about ‘universal conciousness’? Perhaps. How is a component within a system able to see the system from outside? We can’t know this external perspective. We can only know what we see and experience, and deduce. And we can clearly experience sentience and awareness in other creatures, even with our own emotions and intuition, as opposed to powers of analysis. And deploying this experience usefully, must surely lead us to deduce that we arent a seperate cognitive function of the universe but just a part of a mathematical curve that, if we allow it, will extrapolate. And this is the ultimate goal of evolution.
So, some compassion and respect is called for I think… and a little humility. Otherwise we risk compromising the very system that defines us.
For the past ten years or more, I’ve pondered the state of humanity and the world we believe we’ve created, dependent as it is upon a natural environment that we continue to take for granted. I’ve looked at most issues – from antibiotic resistance to population growth via land use, deforestation and biodiversity reduction, economic inequity and excessive consumption, pollution and climate change. I’ve seen how all of these problems are interlinked and are interdependent. How all cause each other.
I’ve seen how our political and economic systems manage these issues as stovepipes, independent from one another. And I’ve seen how religious and political dogma work against the human ability to rationally assess contexts and solutions. How ignorant people are led by ego driven fools. And I’ve seen how our simple minded greed is driven by our selfishness.
In short, I’ve seen how our ignorance is driving our demise, as well as that of most other species, compounded by our stubborn stupidity and ego.
I believe that human civilisation, as we understand it to be, will be no more eighty five years from now. And that within four decades, we’ll be experiencing a sense of upheaval that will render most people’s lives unpleasant at best, untenable at worst.
That by the end of this century, humanity will comprise some ten percent of its current volume, some existing self sufficiently, growing their own food and living a simple life, whilst a minority contiue to try to utilise our knowledge to our advantage, but in doing so come to represent an elite that may have complete control over the rest. The ignorant will finally become subsumed, and the fate of humanity will rest with the ability of those with knowledge to resist becoming arrogant. Our final destiny lies with these people.
I don’t have much hope.
You achingly dark spangled depth.
How does my mysterious sparking
Of elemental syntheses
Mirror your endless
The qualitative universal components
That make my observations what they are.
So small are my thoughts.
Like splashing drops in an ocean wave
Crashing upon a shore,
Unrelenting in its logic.
It’s rumoured that we live in a multiverse, comprising an infinite number of universes wherein anything is possible. Somewhere out there there’s a ‘me’ writing something worth reading.
But I don’t think the multiverse is infinite. We may indeed live in a multiverse, but the only universes that exist are those that, from the infinite number of variances of outcome from the Big Bang, actually comprised an outcome that could, by it’s nature, go on to persist and to evolvet.
Most of the potential ways in which the results of the Big Bang could manifest milliseconds after the event were not tenable. They produced results that pretty much instantly collapsed and cancelled themselves out. They ceased to exist, even as they came into existence.
So, whilst there may have been, perhaps still is in creation, an infinite number of events that could have resulted in a universe, only some succeeded. And we exist in one of them.
Therefore there is not an infinite number of universes. Rather, there are a few. Perhaps, just possibly, there’s only one. And the rest failed to achieve suitable stability sufficient to materialise and to evolve.
And then of course there’s the question of life. At the advent of the Big Bang, when all things were possible and all things were attempted, most things failed. But one outcome was a universe that happened to comprise the elements necessary for the material coalescence of various components that are required for life as we know it, and experience it.
So our universe comprises various forms of hydrogen, carbon and other basic elements, and it’s in the nature of things that as these combine, in all the various ways that they’re capable of, the process we know as life emerges.
The sophistication of this process has also evolved. Because that’s the way of the context in which life exists… a context and combination of interlaced processes that obliges the materials involved to tend towards greater degrees of complexity.
And the ways in which life formed interacted with, and came to observe that context. It thus became more complex in its perspective, and ultimately in its understanding. Until eventually, life evolved that was capable of seeing itself within the very context from which it emerged, and of questioning it.
This isn’t necessarily the same thing as consciousness. All living things are conscious, if by conscious we mean aware of, and able to respond to, the physical environment.
But this awareness was to evolve to such a degree that it became aware that it existed, and so it became conciousness. The universe had evolved a way of critically observing itself. And it did so as part of a natural consequence of its nature – namely its composition.
So we can say that life is as much a part of the nature of the universe as say, hydrogen atoms.Or any other component. Life is an intrinsic part of the nature of the universe. The universe we know comprises life as much as it comprises anything else. So given that life, by its nature, evolves to be self aware, so the universe is self aware. Life is part of the universe’s evolution. And we are the manifestation of the early stages of that evolving process.
So open your mind to the beauty of the world, and its complexity and intricacy, and see your awareness of these things as a separate component that you have a responsibility to nurture. Because a unique quality of conciousness, over all the other elements and components of the universe, is that it’s able to manage its own evolution, and growth, and the way in which it functions.
The universe is like a small child that’s starting to understand itself, its nature and its place. It has become self aware. And it is life in its multitude of forms, that undoubtedly occur on millions of planets, that represents that awareness. You yourself are the universe thinking and watching itself. No less than that.
So wise up. Take your eyes off the money, let go of religious dogma and bigotry of whatever persuasion, see that time spent pondering why and what is not time wasted. Disconnect as far as is practically possible from the world of people, think more freely and let yourself be what you feel inclined to be. Because that ‘you’, with all its potential knock-on effects in a chaotic system, is probably why you exist. To play a part in the evolution of the universe.
With thanks to Jostein Gaarder, and his novel ‘The Castle in the Pyrenees’, for inspiration.
If I were a fly on the wall
What would I see?
What’s my perspective?
Do I see an area of moving stuff?
As though I were part
Of the sea looking up
And seeing part of a wave.
Do I see a bleating thing there
That sees through slitted eyes
A world that’s always wrong?
Or do I see the icy flow of life
Flow past it like stream over rock?
As it sits shining,
Sticking up into the flow
And casting a shadow
Like two fingers inserted
Into a beam of light.
A separate thing experiencing
Just myself in relation.
Do I see a transparent thing?
Drifting through some dark ether?
Belonging to the vast space
Between our atoms.
Some say we’re chemistry.
Some say we make the chemicals.
But whatever truth it is
That you behold
It’s unlikely to be
Life comprises many strands. Like sine waves, they overlap each other. Some peaking as others dip.
Music is one such sine wave. As a cultural phenomenon. In the West, the music sine wave peaked in the 18th century with the advent of music from the likes of J S Bach.
In terms of happiness, that wave probably peaked just prior to the First World War. Or perhaps shortly after it.
The sine wave for the visual arts has a longer wavelength, and probably last peaked in the 19th Century.
The wisdom wave arced high in the 1960’s, even as it became dissipated and high jacked by perceived economic necessities.
Economically, in terms of managing money within our societies, we probably last knew a peak in the 1950’s and again the 60’s.
But one thing is for sure. With the noble exception of the technology sine wave, all are at a low right now.
There’s no need for religion
That sets man against man
And creates false, faith derived
Divides between us.
Understand that we know enough now
About the nature of the material
To know that we constitute something different.
All of us.
Forego your religion and open your mind.
Christ and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest
Were wise men who understood
And couched their insight in the language of the times.
Now you wake up and see
That religious dogmatism will lead
To the demise, through war and strife,
Of us and all that we know to be fundamentally wise.
For if God were to commit suicide
Then the matter of the universe would
Cease to be required.
Consider a number of the issues that humanity faces right now. Population growth. Increased resource use. Increased energy requirements. Increased food requirements. Increased water requirements.
Consider the context in which these requirements are being expressed. Increasing droughts and floods. Increasing corporate hegemony. Huge changes in global balances of power. Universal aspirations to the traditional American -way-of-life. A consumerist model, with an economic system that’s based on debt, both at an individual level and a national one. So growth is required just to pay the interest on the debt.
Where does all this reach some sort of equilibrium? Some real balance between supply and demand. Some state where people are happy with their lot.
Climate change is just one part of the dynamic that’s changing the world we live in. But why it’s significant s that it permeates all other aspects of our lives and our plans and our aspirations. It affects all of the processes that we rely upon to achieve our objectives. It causes disruptions to food supply. It causes floods and great storms. It fundamentally alters the physical context in which we operate. It changes our world. Therefore it has huge implications for the way our societies operate.
Climate Change is not the only issue that we face. There are a whole army of them. Most are caused or exacerbated by climate change but all are increasing in significance at exponential rates. Whilst climate change is a fundamental driver for many of these issues, we also have to deal with:
- Growing populations and their inherent increases in demand on resources.
- Simultaneous growing affluence and its resulting increase in demand on resources, such that this demand is accelerating.
- Microbial resistance to antibiotics and the consequent inherent threat of the undermining of many medical advances since the mid 20th century that are dependent upon antibiotics.
- Oil and energy resource shortage as demand increases and supplies become ever more hard to recover and ever more tenuous and unpredictable in their longevity.
- Increasing inequity between a small minority of people in the world, who increasingly control mote of its assets, and the vast majority who, on an average basis at least, have very little and who are powerless against a system where money is all powerful.
- The evolution of mega cities, where all of our problems become concentrated.
- The loss of biodiversity, the very aspect of the natural world that supports us that enables it to do so, and which allows for a flexible planet that’s able to accommodate typical crises.
- Competition between the need to use land to grow food, and the need to preserve natural environments and biodiversity that enables the ecological systems that support the production of plant and animal based food in the first place.
- Water shortage as more people use more, depleting underground aquifers, whilst climate change alters supply as rainfall patterns change, glaciers retreat and deplete dependent rivers, and precipitation that once fell as snow now falls as rain and runs away, causing floods.
- Accumulating waste as we continue to convert natural resources into short term material products that are discarded and thrown back into an environment that can’t break down their constituents quickly enough.
How the hell does all of this add up? The great challenge facing the people of the 21st century is how to reconcile their aspirations with what’s available to satisfy these aspirations. Never before has humanity been in such control. And never before has it been so hungry for more. How we deal with this conundrum over the next few decades will decided how we survive. Not whether or not we survive, because we will survive, but in what way we survive. We have reached a crux point, where we need to choose between different directions. For the first time we’re able to choose our own evolutionary path. And the worrying thing is that we don’t seem to realise that that’s the decision we’re in the process of making.
Consider all of this. Think about it. Look at the world about you. Research. Read. Think. And when you’ve realised for yourself what’s happening, take action. Join in. Rise and sing your own opera. For the sake of your children.
A broken branch crunched underfoot
Next to the bole of a massive tree
That rose like a sign from the sodden earth,
Alive and being and strong and true.
And I knew in a flash something deep that slid
Away from my grasp as I moved on.
Einstein said that energy and matter
Are all the same and are one another.
Some smooth and seamless confluence then,
Of all existence like endless ocean
That drew that tree to be growing there.
But if its stuff was the same as light
Then what was that which was its life?
Is life just coincidence of energy as form?
Or is it something beyond that source?
Is life independent and something else?
Or are light and life and the motion we see
The same seamless singularity?
You, me and the tree
That blossoms and bubbles and forms on a whim.
Some chaotic prompting that just happens to be.
Are our pain and love and the suffering we see,
The same stuff as stars and infinite space
All happening at once in the same only moment?
I saw real truth in that moment then.
That life-force arises like anything else.
It’s part of the same seamless energy state.
We’re all one thing as we see ourselves
Alone and frantic and striving to make
The small universes we see as our own.
Foolish illusions that make us our pain.
We’re just meant to be and the energy
That sits like a god doesn’t know,
He sits and he farts and he pleasures himself
By causing the trees and the galaxies
And laughing aloud at the curious thought
Of mankind being made in his image.
Earth photographed by the Voyager spacecraft from 3 billion miles away. Still within our solar system.
One small planet in a solar system. Trillions of solar systems in our galaxy. Trillions of galaxies in our universe. Earth like a grain of sand on a very, very big beach, with seven billion atom sized entities clinging to it, all proclaiming their importance and their opinions and their understanding of the nature of things.
If we’re not alone, we’re pretty insignificant. If we are alone, we’re still pretty insignificant. Even collectively as a species, a phenomenon. Never mind as individuals.
I don’t know whether we have meaning, or what that meaning might be, but I suspect that either what we perceive, vis à vis this photograph, is illusory and we actually stand a chance of meaning a great deal in some unappreciable way in a different kind of universe that we can’t imagine, or it’s not illusory, in which case we’d better get our heads out of our arses and grow up a bit, because no one is going to give a shit if we decide to cease.
That sound force that keeps us bound
To agreeable ground does so by being
In graceful balance with that centrifugal opposite
That would have us fly away to meet
In some grand collision
Where we’d greet each other and say hello
Before bouncing back to our small place
To momentarily rest
At gravity’s sweet breast
Before bouncing back out again
In constant percussive brain bashing rhythm
In tune to the dance of the stars.
In some small space
sits a thought of mine.
Like a golden nugget
in perennial slime.
Disconnected from the rest
and so unable
to truly form.
Part of some particulate
from past or future.
And I am with it.
It is me.
There making what the world is.
Whilst even reflecting
in vicious spiral
like a black hole.
Never to change anything.