Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One half of a conversation

This morning I came across some big floppy disks that I was tossing into the trash basket when Bro. Simon came to borrow some Cadmium Yellow, I have been giving him some informal art lessons, now he is trying his hand at oil painting, and already he has taken a liking to Vincent van Gogh, so my oil paints are disappearing at an alarming rate, but that is another story for another day, this story begins when Bro. Simon's eyes caught sight of the big floppy disks in the trash basket. He immediately retrieved them and asked if he could have them, for he is a collector of old computers and said he could make use of these "perfectly good diskettes." With them and the Cadmium Yellow he disappeared, only to return at noon with a "print out" of what was on my discarded floppy disks. I had no idea what I had stored on them, and it turns out that the "print outs" contained "my side" of some sort of exchange. I can only imagine that it was before the Internet, when the only exchange of ideas with computers was by modems and bulletin boards (or whatever they were then called). Anyway, here is my side of a conversation of which I suppose we will never know the other side. I will leave the other side to your imagination.

If I ventured out at night with my toolkit of wooden ruler and magnifying glass to measure the cosmos, you may laugh or you may smile at my simplicity or you may simply shake your head.

In my last astronomy class we talked much of measurement. Parallax is all about measurement. Without measurement what is the Doppler red shift or the Hubble constant? Without measurement, I'm afraid we have no science.

Perhaps I should deconstruct my first comment, for I fear it has been misunderstood. I am not commenting on the joys of nature, for I fully appreciate Bro. Theo's joy, and your joy, and my joy of nature.

"If I ventured out at night with my toolkit of wooden ruler and magnifying glass to measure the cosmos, you may laugh or you may smile at my simplicity or you may simply shake your head."

A scientist would think comical to see someone attempting to be scientific, yet going at it in such an absurd way. For me to hold a magnifying glass to the night sky, and then to attempt measurement of distant realms with a wooden ruler, would be both comical and farce. For the tools and the understanding of the enterprise are simply not there.

Now you may see that I was "turning the tables," if you will, on Bro. Theo, who presented an outline of his book, his quest to find God by trekking about an earthly landscape, yet comes to the conclusion that God doesn't exist, at least a God that one can communicate with, for in all his searching his bodily sensors were unable to find a material god. In his mind, or so I guess, the wonders around him are sufficient enough to boggle his mind, and if one cannot touch or hear the God that the local parson imagines, or "the church" has constructed, then not only is the constructed god dismissed, but God is dismissed.

And finally, in this bit of deconstruction, I view Bro. Theo frolicking about the peninsula in search of the Creator of ALL as amusing as me measuring distant galaxies with my wooden ruler. Each fully misunderstanding the quest at hand.

And so it is. Except for your last paragraph. For my part I can totally understand and enjoy and investigate and measure and ponder the material world, as well I seek to do with the immaterial world, or if I dare use the word spiritual. Yet on the other side of the table the 'profitably and pleasantly' are reserved for the material, while the 'spiritual' is treated simplistically and condescendingly (anthropomorphic 'dad' in the sky). And finally, you say "Theo is a skeptic" and my understanding of skeptics, in the realm of science, is that they are up to challenges, in fact that is what the scientific method is all about. So I'm a bit puzzled that my tiny 'contrary' comments should be viewed as unprofitable or unpleasant.

I attempt to converse here with Bro. Theo's statement as the genesis of my comments. I haven't read Bro. Theo's books, and haven't commented on them, but have commented on what is presented in his statement. Perhaps using the cross, and a bit of rambling, will illuminate my thinking a bit. I understand the world of the human senses, the natural world, the material world, as the horizontal plane of life, and the spiritual as the vertical plane of life. It is on the horizontal plane that we must all live, yet it is the vertical plane that we can choose to understand, or not, to dwell within, or not. Many simply dismiss the spiritual as unknowable, hence a useless pursuit. Yet science is all about unknowns. We live in the greatest unknown, the universe. Dark energy accounts for over three quarters of the mass-energy of the universe, nearly all of ALL is hypothetical dark matter and dark energy. This is what science tells me, at least the physicists, that nearly all of ALL is but chalk marks on a chalkboard, a theory that creates mystery to make all the other equations work. I wonder if dark matter and dark energy are the stuff of my imagined vertical plane, the plane of what can't be measured, what can't be touched by we humans. Imagination seems so unique to humans (for do other creatures write novels? or tickle each other's minds?) as well as the idea of potential, humans can and do break out of their scripted DNA, and imagination is what triggers a human to mindfully or mindlessly do things that have never been done before. We the only animals that have broken through the scripted DNA in any meaningful (or meaningless) ways. You speak of mystery, yet I find that the natural world holds little mystery, yes many unknowns, unknown simply because scientist haven't discovered or focused attention on these unknowns, a focus that breaks down the complex to the simple and in the process reveals the watch for what it is, gears upon gears and a spring. Yet the inner world of the human mind is the true mystery, for as much as science attempts to tease the mysteries out, then more mysteries are discovered. Inside my skull is an imagination that thinks the cosmos is composed of .3% neutrinos, .5% stars, 4% hydrogen and helium, 25% dark matter, and 70% dark energy. Oh yes, .03% material, other than hydrogen and helium. For me a far greater mystery is why fellow humans dismiss a Creator of this ALL, yet are confident that ALL just exists and by not the evolution of Darwin, but far before that, by a cosmic evolution. ALL came to be, and by chance and happenstance all things have come down to a being that can think such thoughts, and not only think such thoughts, but can argue over them. And they often do it in the name of science, when it is science that holds 95% of ALL to still be a mystery. A true mystery. Oh you of such great faith!

1 comment:

Lucy said...

I was watching crossbills on a wildlife programme yesterday.
The possibility that oh, so slowly, those finches who by chance mutation, had one mandible crossed somewhat over the other, which then enabled them to get into pinecones, so thus they evolved, whichever way you view it, was an incredible wonder. The timescale, the sifting of possibilities, are somehow dizzying.
As is the fact that we wonder at it...