Continuing the theme of ‘Life – what’s it all about then, eh?’
I’m staying pretty quiet in comments because I don’t want to get too far off track. This stuff has been bubbling around in my mind for a long time now. I’m sure it’s all connected but have not yet seen all the links. It’s certainly not a linear thought process but a dose of whisky helps send the mind into non-linear tracks, I find. Unfortunately it also makes it harder to type, which might be why I’ve never made a serious effort to write it down.
There was a night in Newton-on-Ayr many years ago, a night that began in a pub in Prestwick and continued through many more pubs, during which a drunken companion and myself solved the mystery of life, the universe and everything. We knew what The Answer was (it wasn’t 42) and it was so absolutely clear. Unfortunately neither of us could remember it the next day. I doubt a dictaphone would have helped either, it would just have contained ‘graaah feckit oooh (belch) fagglebats hur hur hur’ or some such. Since then, rediscovering that answer has been a sort of quest. I am certain it was right, I just don’t remember what it was.
Tonight I am trying the red wine alternative. Not as effective but my typing fingers won’t say ‘Get stuffed’ quite so soon. Here goes.
Loads of stuff came up in comments on the last post, all of it absorbed into the Collective that is this current Theory of Everything. I have no idea which parts are right and which are wrong so I discard nothing yet.
One thing that came up was the limits of our vision. Distant stars are not as they appear. If a star is a million light years away then what we see is the light that left that star a million years ago. That star is not now in the place we see it. It might by now have exploded or burned out, collided with another star or turned into a gigantic Edam cheese. Hey, take a look at quantum theory, especially the idea of Boltzmann brains. In this universe it is not safe to dismiss anything at all.
The moon was once made of cheese. To be correct, it was simultaneously made of cheese and of rock and only collapsed into one state or the other when humans landed on it. As luck would have it, it turned into rock. If we had sent Wallace and Gromit out there first we would now have an endless supply of cheese.
This light-speed limit even applies to our own sun. It’s roughly nine light minutes away so the rays that scorched my face took nine minutes to get here. If the sun vanished we would not know for nine minutes. Where we see it in the sky is not where it is – it’s where it was nine minutes ago.
In short, nothing of what we see in the sky is where we think it is. Except maybe the moon, that’s not very far away so it actually is very close to where it seems.
Oh. And birds.
There is a serious scientific theory that suggests the entire universe is a hologram projected from its outer skin. I really don’t like that theory because if it is so, then what is happening now actually happened millions of years ago on the outer skin of the universe, as did what happens next. It means there can be no free will.
It also means we will pop out of existence at some point. The universe is expanding and the most distant stars will disappear when they are travelling away from us too fast for their light to ever reach us. If they recede at just over half light speed and we travel in the opposite direction at just over half light speed, then our relative velocities become faster than the speed of light (note that neither is actually travelling faster than light) so light from that star will no longer arrive here, ever.
The stars will blink out, one by one. If the hologram theory is true then the projection from the outer skin of the universe will eventually fail to arrive. We would simply blink out of existence. A nasty thought.
That hologram theory has to be wrong. Science, real science, did not discount it and brush it aside. Science considered it and most scientists thought ‘nah’ but it’s still out there as a possibility. The reason it’s still a possibility is that science has no idea where we came from or why, or even if there is a ‘why’. Maybe there is no meaning to life. Maybe life just ‘is’.
Science also posits the possibility of vibrating strings creating the illusion of matter, of energetic vibrations giving rise to the subatomic particles everything is made of and the likelihood of a reality of eleven dimensions containing a potentially infinite number of universes. Pretty wild stuff.
Science has demonstrated – proven beyond doubt – that a single photon can pass through two slits simultaneously and produce an interference pattern with itself, and that subatomic particles can be ‘entangled’ in such a way that, even when widely separated, what is done to one particle simultaneously happens to the other. Even wilder stuff.
That the universe exists requires no proof. It’s night here. If I go outside and look up, there it is. It is there every night, sometimes obscured by clouds, and it is no transient phenomenon. It is as real as reality allows and as stable as a table with one of my books under the wonky leg.
That the universe emerged from a point source is also pretty certain. There is always room for doubt in science but the evidence that it all came from one little dot labelled ‘Instant Universe, just add water’ is compelling. Nothing so far has seriously challenged that theory.
What science does not, and (real scientists will admit) cannot know, is why. Why did that dot of concentrated mush suddenly decide to become a universe with stars and planets and people and mushrooms and duck-billed platypuses? The duck-billed platypus is a great big ‘why’ all of its own. A thing made of leftover parts like some of my own teenage constructions from the spare bits of model kits. If I remember I’ll get back to that one later – but look up its reproductive genetics. I defy you to not respond to its X-Y chromosome shambles with ‘WTF?’
There is no way to ever know why it happened. The concentrated mass had no structure and therefore contained no information until it exploded and started to form particles. There is no information available in this universe from any time before the start of it all. Even Time did not exist before then since time is intrinsic to our universe. Outside the universe, time might be a whole different game with more than one time dimension to move around in. Maybe all that dark matter in our universe operates a different version of time. Until we find a way to measure it we cannot know.
Incidentally, I find it amusing when scientists refer to ‘the’ dark matter particle. Our visible universe has lots of different subatomic particles and that’s, what, fifteen percent of the whole thing? There could be hundreds of different dark matter particles and entire galaxies made of stuff we have no idea about.
Science considers some really wild ideas and has proven the reality of some really wild stuff but still there are things science dismisses out of hand. Ghosts. Demons. Telepathy.
Well no. Science does not dismiss these things. Scientists do. Any scientist who looks into such things is immediately labelled a crank and ostracised, while the guys who think we are a reality TV show beamed from the edge of space are given at least a hearing. Science does not dismiss God. Science merely accepts that, for now, it has no means to test for God so cannot engage with the subject.
In another incarnation I have railed against those who sell EMF meters and especially tri-field meters to amateur ghosthunters. There is no such thing as a ghost detector. Science cannot make one because science has no idea what ghosts are made of, therefore it is impossible to devise a detection machine. These things are just preying on the gullible. Likewise the IR-based motion detectors. If they work, why don’t ghosts set off burglar alarms all the time? These devices give the illusion of science to people who are just playing scary night games. They don’t even know that EMF fields have to be measured in three dimensions, that a fridge turning on in another part of the house will give them a spike and they never write a damn thing down.
As for tri-field meters, these are expensive pieces of kit that have no place outside a laboratory. They will detect your pocket change moving around.
Let’s get back to God. If, as my theory holds, he is outside the Universe then he can see all of it and go into any part of it at will. Science cannot prove or disprove God or study the possiblity in any way since if he does exist he is outside our observable universe. Science also has no idea what he is made of so cannot devise any machine capable of measuring him.
It is an uncomfortable thing to realise that we might be no more than the bacteria in my test tubes, who go about their lives unaware that I have made their environment for them, am directing their development and might decide to autoclave the lot at any moment. Even if they became aware of my existence, I am outside the test tube. They cannot see, detect or measure me. Some would believe I am out here based on the gradual addition of nutrients to their world. Others would argue that sugars spontaneously appear due to the theory of quantum calories, and that those who believe in the Microbiologist are deluded.
Did the Big Bang just happen or did God say ‘Let there be light’? In the beginning there was only the timeless void. That is true whether you follow science or religion. Then there was the big bang. Did it just happen or did someone light the fuse? There is no way to ever know. So why argue about it? The argument can never be resolved either way.
This is not what science and religion are arguing about. What they are arguing about are two different arguments, one on each side, and the religious side has one important detail wrong. As does the science side.
To be continued -and may I say I am enjoying this departure from the bad-news media for a few days. Not reading the Daily Mail should be a prescription for anyone with dodgy blood pressure or depression.
Afternote – So far I remain an apathist. I believe nothing but also dismiss nothing. I am not going to label myself ‘atheist’ since I do not deny the existence of God but cannot simply believe without evidence. So there might or might not be a God. I don’t care.