What is life all about? Why are we here? How are we here?
How amazingly normal it seems to us that we should be here at all. Think about it. We can treat our lives as if everything is banal. All the people we know and all the people we meet in our lives. Some of them will be mere guest appearances in the ‘drama’ of our lives, faces in the background, while others we will only ever come to know shallowly. In truth, we shall probably only ever know between 10-20 people very well in our lives. Maybe that estimate is too high. We gain knowledge of how intricately complex each person is through our experience of our close family and/or friends. From this we can come to realise that all people are indeed like this, a complex mixture of life experience, emotions and thoughts. Each person has their own story that is a jigsaw of all the things that have happened in their lives since the day they were born and even before that. There are currently well over 6,000,000,000 jigsaws.
All of these people are on a rock. A rock that has given rise to extremely complex biological phenomena, but a rock nonetheless. This rock is hurtling around a spherical conglomeration of gases that are so hot that we cannot scientifically say they are burning, but glowing. This sphere of glowing gas is itself ‘absolutely flying’ through what we have called space. The sun really is travelling fast, inconceivably so. Yet if we could view the sun from an alien landscape’s sky in our galaxy, it would still seem to take days or weeks to see it change position, such is the amount of space for it to travel through.
Taken from http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap051004.html
Now, lets take into account that the Milky Way is one galaxy out of, apparently, ONE HUNDRED BILLION ESTIMATED in the OBSERVABLE universe. The mind boggles. All of these galaxies contain (at least) millions of stars, if it is not more generally the case that average galaxies are home to billions of stars. I recently learned on a favourite website of mine, ‘From Quarks to Quasars,’ that the distance between the Milky Way and our closest neighbouring galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy, is 24 times the span of the Milky Way. That is more or less 24 x 100,000 light years. So, by my calculation, if we could travel at the speed of light (the theoretical speed limit of the universe, according to Einstein), it would take us 2.4 million years to travel to Andromeda. I think we can have some inkling of how unimaginably massive our universe is from these facts. And apparently, there may be OTHER universes, which could also be numbered in the billions. They could be huge too. This leads me to a question I have often asked myself: What is all of this?
I mean, seriously, what is the universe? What is physical reality? What is the point of any of it? Can we all agree that the fact there is this physical reality around us, rather than nothing at all, is bizarre in itself? Why should there be anything? How utterly, unfathomably bizarre. Lets go a step further. From the apparent emptiness of space and nature, here on the rock we call home, life has flourished. Self reflecting life. Again, how bizarre and amazing. Common sense would dictate that this was not an instantaneous or even quick occurence.
I say this because I am a seminarian, that is, a person studying for the Catholic priesthood. I am reacting to the belief that the creation accounts in the book of Genesis should be interpreted literally. This is not something I would adhere to and I think most people would say the same. The creation accounts are symbological stories to explain who we are and why corruption exists in the world.
Creation of Adam: Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creation_of_Adam
That is not what I really want to talk about though. I want to get back to here. To here and now. Here we are, I writing (obviously I’ve finished since) and you reading. Isn’t it amazing? The fact that we exist and that we exist as ourselves, in a universe which exists, which doesn’t have to exist. I mean, there is nothing contingent on it, except obviously, the things inside this universe, like ourselves. But one could argue that we don’t matter (Probably not a good idea as human life would be even more devalued than it currently is. I think we all matter. Even as specimens of nature, we are marvels. The crowning beings of the universe, should no more advanced life exist).
To raise for probably the umpteenth time in human history the old argument that we exist and the universe exists so there must be a creator of said existence may be simplistic, but I am a simple kind of guy. This creator I will call God, in whom I believe. The Eternal Word, Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit. So that is the argument I want to raise. Now, I grant anyone who would disagree with me the acknowledgement that God may not have created the universe… directly. He may not be the primary cause of the universe. Indeed, there may be other physical universes beyond ours which God did not also directly cause. Maybe there are even other manners of physical being which are greater than universes. Again, the mind boggles at the unknown.
Aristotle, with an interesting quote that is not really relevant to the current topic but I thought it was a good one for people to be able to think about: Taken from letstalkknowledge.net
Lets discuss cause and effect and look at the Aristotelian notion of the ‘Unmoved Mover.’ Most people have heard of Aristotle. It is probably fair to say most people don’t know that much about him though. He lived almost 2500 years ago. It would be very easy to dismiss his ideas because of this but it would be unwise. In my very limited encounters with him, I have developed a sense that he was a man of genius. If you don’t believe me, read up on him. His philosophical reflections on nature (physical being) and being beyond nature are astounding. Investigate if you are interested, but be prepared to be patient, as knowledge is not gleaned from his texts without taking into account we are reading translations which can be a little arduous to understand. Stanford Encyclopedia and sparknotes give a great summary of his ideas
Anyway, he very logically asserted that in the case of things that exist in nature (and beyond), behind all of these things there is a first cause. An unmoved mover. A cause of all subsequent effects and causes that did not have another cause, but was it’s own cause. All things can be traced back through all the causes and effects in nature to this one original cause, the primary cause or prime mover. If this is not the case then we could only say that there is an infinite regress of causes and effects and that being, both physical and metaphysical (being without physicality) never began and is eternal. In regards to the universe, we scientifically believe this to be false. It had a beginning.
It seems to me that such a ‘force’ or ‘power’ that can create or created reality could not be anything that does not have it’s own will. After all, if it had no cause, where would it’s potency to create come from except than from ‘within,’ in a ‘mind’ so to speak. There would be no way for the uncaused cause to bring things into being if there was not ‘internal’ action. If there was an ‘outside’ influence, then it would be the cause of the ‘uncaused cause,’ thus rendering it another effect caused by something else which means that calling it the uncaused cause would be ludicrous.
Philosophically speaking, this is how I look at reality. I would welcome objections to the argument put forward by Aristotle above as to me they seem sound, but it can be hard to look at such an argument objectively when it coincides with your worldview, mine being that God exists. How He exists, what He is, is surplus to this discussion.