September 4, 2013, was not the Day of the Jackal, or even Groundhog Day. It was the Day of the Polyp. That unspeakable, extraterrestrial, living monster discovered lurking under one of those 2cm gall-stones removed from my duodenum last week to stop them from blocking my pancreas, was extracted, leaving me out of harm’s way (for the nonce…). Because the growth is not cancerous, non-invasive surgery sufficed.
I have already wondered out loud “What is the point of Pluto ?” The poor little globe with the identity-crisis has been around a lot longer than my polyp, but it is just as pointless. Why a God would have created useless celestial bodies or lethal corporal parasites like cancerous polyps will remain a challenge for non-atheist apologists. But why would He have bothered to create even benign polyps ?
Pluto and polyps are mystery enough. But plurivrerses, multiverses ? Beyond the unreachable stars are worlds that have been occupying nothingness, long before we very recently even hypothesized about their existence. The question of their raison d’être beats even that of would-be planets and nasty, slimy, useless and potentially dangerous trespassers in our guts. They, we and the rest of “creation” have no purpose whatever. It is a liberation to be able to recognize that “God” had nothing to do with creating either the cosmos or the components of my delicate digestive system.
(My good friend, THOM, is an engineer as fascinated by the cosmos as I am. He has just written a Reflection that readers will appreciate as much as I did. You will see why I am attaching it here to my own.)
CATALYST, GOLDILOCKS, and ORIGINAL IMPERFECTIONS
A recent fascinating episode of an Australian TV series, “Catalyst – Special on Science and the Universe” (ABC 1, Thursday 29th August, 2013) has some extraordinary revelations about the Universe. The word “catalyst” has a number of meanings including “a person or thing that precipitates an event”, and this program should be a catalyst for thought, if nothing more. The program featured comment from a number of reputable contemporary scientists about the Universe of which our planet Earth is but a very, very, very tiny, even microscopically small part. The contributors included some of the “usual suspects” in debates about the existence (or not) of God – but the program was not ostensibly about God or Faith or Religion. The featured luminaries included men at the cutting edge of astrophysics and theoretical physics and mathematics : Graham Phillips, Fred Hoyle, Brian Green, Sean Carroll, Lawrence Krauss and Leonard Susskind, among others. These scientists would be the first to acknowledge the incomparable debt that they and we owe to the greats of the past – Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Einstein among many others. They would also acknowledge that these greats of the past would marvel at what modern Science can and does tell them and us about the Universe of which we happen to be part – and which will continue in the future to tell them, us and our offspring even more. We, the viewers, accept that these scientists know what they are talking about, even though much of what they are saying is far beyond our real understanding. But we know that they and their colleagues provide us with magical consumables which in many cases are also beyond our understanding – devices like smart phones, flat-screen TVs, medical diagnostic machines (PET, CT and MRI machines), and that they put men on the moon and launch probes into deep interstellar space. It is the same Science which allows them to provide us with these marvels which informs them and us about the Universe.
The program touched on the Big Bang and the Original Imperfections (refreshingly no Original Sin was mentioned) in the smoothness of the process without which the Universe as we know it could not have emerged. Those tiny imperfections in density allowed the development of planets and stars. The scientists spoke of what they termed the “Goldilocks” zone of density contrasts, improbably small but without which gravity fields could not have emerged to pull matter together and maintain it in place. Our Earth is but a tiny and very recent part of that. They spoke of the almost non-existent energy which permeates “empty” space itself, the so-called Dark Energy, the strength of which is so preposterously fine-tuned that it emerges in the mathematics only after 123 decimal places. (In case you’re wondering, that is 0.00000 … go on for another 108 places … 0000000XXX – the Xs being the figures I’ve forgotten.) And they spoke of other equally fine-tuned energy states that could have emerged at the precisely same time in the Big Bang process, which would have resulted in parallel but, to us, undiscoverable other Universes which would co-exist with ours.
Some of the speculations of these cutting-edge scientists seem preposterous, and maybe they are – particularly as most of us for all practical purposes are locked into a pre-Renaissance geo-centric model of the Cosmos and the role of our little planet Earth in that wonder.
These scientists were not speculating about God or Creation or Salvation or Religion or Faith or Folly. One telling comment was made, however, which may have gone unremarked by some viewers, but is perhaps central to the “Catalyst” title. One of the scientists, in an aside, said “There is absolutely no evidence that the Universe serves any Purpose whatsoever.” A catalyst indeed.