The Theological Implications of the Multiverse

Because of recent research in gravity waves and inflation, the theory of the multiverse moves further toward reality.  While creationists are still fighting for equal time to oppose the 1859 theory of evolution, science has gone on to discover endless other aspects of reality that counter the Biblical view.  I don’t know why creationists focus so exclusively on evolution when millions of other scientific discoveries are also thorns in their theological sides.

When humanity thought the Earth was the center of everything, contained within the celestial spheres, it was possible to imagine our reality being constructed by a super being, especially if you believed the whole thing was only 6,000 years old.  Even then it was an extremely far out idea to buy.  After the sun was moved to the center of the universe, and Earth was just the third planet, it became a lot harder to imagine a God that could create the solar system with some kind of magic spell.  For a long while after that, we assumed all of reality was the Milky Way galaxy.

As reality got bigger, it got harder to imagine a single being creating it.  But still, reality was manageable with just a billion stars.  Then Edwin Hubble came along and showed us reality is composed of billions of galaxies.  How can any theology handle a reality that big?

If we live in a multiverse, it might not be billions of universes, but an infinity of them.  Or there might be another layer, so there are billions of multiverses in a megaverse.  It seems science can’t find any end to large or small, nor a beginning of time.  This has got to wipe out all ancient theological theories.  It’s time to start over.  Reality is too big for any kind of God, and we’re too small for any kind of special consideration.

Humanity needs to start over and throw out all theology and come up with a new working hypothesis about our place in reality.  Instead of thinking of ourselves as the crown of creation, we need see ourselves closer to an intelligent virus that accidently came about through random evolution with no  higher being watching.  Seen from orbiting telescopes, humans are little smudges that have infected this planet.  We’re quite deadly, killing off most of the other life forms on Earth.

We have a decision to make.  Shall we take responsibility for our actions?  There is no God judging us.  We only judge ourselves.  And it might not even be possible for our species to become fully conscious of its actions and act.  We might breed ourselves out of existence.  It should be pretty obvious to all by now that no God will intercede.  We will not be punished if we don’t act, nor will we be rewarded if we do.  We merely can choose to act.  We can preserve ourselves, other species, and the planet Earth – for a while. 

Nothing last forever in the multiverse.

Please read.

JWH – 3/24/14

The Country & The Country–America in 2012

In 2009 China Miéville came out with The City & The City, a fantasy novel about two cultures, living in one physical location, that were so alienated from each other that they believed they lived in two separate cities, even though both cities were located in the same geographical location.  Citizens of each city spoke a different language, had different laws and culture, and they had been trained since birth to ignore each other so well that they were invisible to each other.

When I read The City & The City I thought the idea too far out to believe, but the 2012 Presidential election is making me change my mind.  This afternoon was I was reading news feeds on my iPad with the app Zite about climate change.  There were two kinds of stories.  90% of the stories were science articles about the effects of global warming around the world.  Not stories theorizing the coming of global warming, but reports of its effect right now.  The rest of the stories were from climate change deniers.  They no longer try to attack the science of global warming, they laugh at the the absurdity that anyone should even consider the possibility of climate change.  They sneer at liberals who believe these science fictional fantasies.  They applaud Romney, Ryan and the Republicans for giving zero thought and time to such Chicken Little fears.

We’re now living in The County & The Country!

What I’m writing now is completely invisible to conservatives.  If they read this essay they would only see some silly story that sounds like nonsense.  It’s doubtful any would even try to read it.  And I’m not writing this to appeal to their reason.  I know I’m invisible to them.  They can’t hear me.

We have become so polarized in the United States that we can no longer see members of the opposite political party.

I could take the time to list many pro and con articles I read today, but what’s the point, those that see, do – those that don’t, can’t.  Anyone can go to Google Alerts and set up a news watch on any topic.  Just set up a “climate change” News Alert.  You’ll be sent an email once a day with all news of any kind about the topic.

Global warming has been happening for decades.  The effects have been felt for decades.  Humans change the planet all the time in endless ways.  We affect the weather all the time.  And it’s all invisible to you if you choose to ignore it.  I think even people who understand that climate change is happening refuse to pay attention.  People do not want to change their lives.  People do not want to make sacrifices.  People do not want to believe that bad things are going to happen.

New Scientist has an interesting article that asks:  “If 2013 breaks heat record, how will deniers respond?”  I often wonder about that.  At what point do the people who can’t see climate change suddenly start feeling the heat?  Will they ever?  How powerful is mind over reality?

The Republican party claims President Obama has been a failure as a leader and now it’s time for Republicans to lead the country.  Only they can lead us out of our economic mess.  I’ll admit that Obama hasn’t been a great leader.  I’ll also admit that Republicans can be great at leading the country.  But they are a one trick pony when it comes to leadership.  All they know how to do is lower taxes, regardless of the economic impact.  Voting Republican means voting to lower taxes on the wealthy.  You can be absolutely sure they can lead the country into lower taxes.  Whether they can lead us anywhere else is doubtful.  But it’s also a 100% guarantee, that they won’t do anything about the environment, other than run away, or stick their heads in the sand.

Voting Republican means:  “We want NO leadership on environmental issues.  Zip.  Nada.  Nothing.  Nix. Zero. Zilch.”

America is now two countries coexisting in the same spatial plane.  There are two cultures, liberals and conservatives.  They do not speak the same language.  They can not communicate.  Conservatives see reality on the North American continent different from liberals.  It’s cool and refreshing where Republicans live.  All they see is high taxes, wasteful governmental programs, welfare squatters, sin and a black man as President.

They want to grow the defense budget to protect America from any harm when our only real enemy is ourselves and climate change.  Is that leadership?

[One reason I don’t give Obama high marks for leadership is he hasn’t lead on climate change.  He does accept the problem, he just hasn’t made it a political issue.  Read “Obama and Romeny on Climate Change Science” at the Washington Post.]

 

JWH – 9/3/12.

We Need A Number

Go do a Google search on this phrase – “Target Atmospheric CO2” – and include the quotation marks, and you will find 2,400 links.  The links point to essays discussing a scientific paper by James Hansen and other scientists called “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?”  The gist of the story:  The likely safe high range for CO2 in the atmosphere is 350ppm, and we’re beyond that at 385ppm.  Hansen is the NASA scientist that first alerted Congress to the global warming problem back in 1988.  Randomly read some of those essays reacting to the paper and you’ll save me the time paraphrasing it.  The paper itself is perfectly readable, if you’re patient, but it’s bumpy with scientific speak, so it might be easier to read the commentaries.

Many of the writers act like 350 is the magic number we need, and in some ways that’s true.  It gives humanity a very specific goal.  It tells everyone that if we want weather like the nice weather we grew up with, then everybody needs to go on a carbon diet and get the atmospheric CO2 below 350 again.  However, that does not convey the sacrifice needed to achieve the goal.

I think we need another number.  Scientists need to decide what is the fair share target number we all need to stay under personally to get the job done.  Recycling paper and buying compact florescent lights are not going to do the trick.  I think until we have a personal number to target, along with proper labeling on everything we buy, people won’t understand how much CO2 they need to cut out of their lives.

How much sacrifice do we need to make?  If the nations of the world had a crash program to switch to 100% solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear and other sources of clean energy, would that solve the problem?  Would that be one way to solve the problem without asking individuals to think about the details?  Or should governments just kill off some of the most polluting industries?  Do we need to give up the beef industry?  Or the paper industry?  Or the airline industry?  Or all of them plus more?  Or would it be better to ask the citizens themselves to take on their own share of global warming responsibility and let them make their own decisions on how to clean up their share of personal waste?

If we had a number to measure our personal use against, we could all decide the sacrifices we’d like to make.  Some people might be willing to dry their clothes on the line outside for a year to budget flying to New York City for a vacation.  Other people might buy high tech cars that put little CO2 in the atmosphere so they can enjoy living in a larger house.  Others might choose to walk to work so eating steaks wouldn’t break their personal greenhouse gas consumption budget.

Many people have suggested having a carbon tax to help fund a Manhattan style project to convert to clean energy power plants.  This would discourage waste and finance change.  Having a tax would be one way to quantify for the public their duty to humanity.  It could also simplify the decisions people make.  If gasoline with a carbon tax was $12 a gallon, then you’d think long and hard about wasting it.  If the price of electricity from coal went to 4x with a carbon tax, it would give utility companies income to build new plants and customers incentives to make their houses energy efficient.

This would be the easy route.  What if in the next ten years we screwed around and didn’t do anything and it became frighteningly obvious we need to do something drastic?   Would we make bigger sacrifices then?  What if we had to outlaw the gasoline powered car?  Or outlaw airplanes?  Or ration electricity?

There are thousands and thousands of things we can do now by freely making the choices ourselves before the governments of the world have to get heavy.  If we knew what our carbon allotment was, it would be easier to make those choices.

Take for instance paper.  I have no idea how much paper contributes to the problem of global warming, but I have seen one number that says that junk mail adds 114 billion pounds of CO2 annually.  My reaction is to give up paper completely.  I’m phasing out my magazine and newspaper subscriptions, I’m doing my best to never print computer documents, I’m working to reduce junk mail, and I’m finding ways to shop for products with less packaging.

If everyone thought this way, paper magazines would disappear from society and everyone would read electronic periodicals.  Is this good or bad?  That’s a lot of jobs lost.  Potentially, it could mean a lot of businesses would go under.  I’d hate to see that, but on the other hand, paper really isn’t needed in our computer networked society.  My local newspaper just started offering a weekly electronic edition that looks just like the print edition, but costs less than the Sunday only paper subscription.  I’m moving to a paperless lifestyle, but even though it’s logical to me, is it what everyone else should be doing too?

I draw the line at magazines and newspapers, but feel that books are worth their environmental costs because we preserve them and consider newspapers and mags disposable.  What if that’s wrong.  What if there’s a way to have environmental safe magazines?  Unless scientists tell us the values associated with all our consumption we won’t know how to make enlightened decisions.  If a National Geographic subscription form came with a number – 24 – for 24 pounds of CO2 added to the atmosphere per 1 year subscription then that would be a big step in understanding the problem.

However, unless I know my allotment number, say 1,000 pounds per year, I wouldn’t be able to practically use the 24 figure I got from National Geographic.  So Mr. Hansen, it you and your science buddies would be so kind, give us another number.  350 is cool for the world to know, but we all need another number, a number that would tell us how to live by so all 7 billion people riding on spaceship Earth pulls that 385ppm figure down to 350ppm.  That number is the maximum amount in pounds of greenhouse gases we can each safely add to the atmosphere in a year.

President Elect Obama, you could help with this too.  Instead of offering another general economic incentive package, offer us tax breaks on buying specific clean energy products and services.  That would be another way to quantify a solution.  Tax what’s bad for the environment, and subsidized what’s good.  Get the U.S. to do more than it’s fair share to get the world below that 350ppm number.  We owe the rest of the world.

JWH 11-9-8

Two Species of Human Beings

One of my all time favorite experiments dealt with visual perception.  I’m recalling this from memory of a book I read long ago, but maybe someone can let me know the original source.  In this experiment scientists raised two batches of kittens in different controlled environments.   Half the kittens were raised in a room with no vertical lines and the other half brought up in a place with no horizontal lines.  After six months they let the kittens out into the normal world.  The kittens who were raised without horizontal lines would not jump up onto a flat chair seat or shelves, and kittens raised without vertical lines would walk into chair legs.

When I read this I wondered what was missing from my vision because of my limited upbringing.  This current election makes me think of that experiment, because the Republicans are shouting at the Democrats, “Hey, Liberals, can’t you see the vertical lines, they’re right in front of your face!”  And the Democrats are yelling back, “Dudes, can’t you see those horizontal surfaces, they’re right there!”

Global warming deniers are making me wonder if there’s two different species of human beings living side by side.  Their absolute refusal to see the problem is so adamant that I have to wonder if it’s a matter of failed perception.  I don’t know what to say to them.  They clutch their false out-of-date data like it was handed down from God on stone tablets and they refuse to look at any new data because they think it’s from false prophets.  No matter how much information I’m willing to provide, they deny that it’s valid or that it really exists.  They are like the kittens raised without vertical lines that can’t see chair legs.

But the implications are far greater than this.  The division of the two species divide other issues like politics and religion.  How can we as a nation solve our problems, especially big problems, if we’re always polarized?  I wonder if the deniers have an innate sense of the cat in the quantum box, knowing at an unconscious level that as long as they don’t look inside the box the cat will be okay?  Will a global warming denier even understand what I just said?

To me the issue has gone beyond global warming.  I’m starting to worry that there is an even more dangerous problem than climate change, and that’s this division of perception that polarizes the population.  Is it like a law-of-nature barrier that keeps anything from going faster than light.  What if the average intelligence of the human race limits how far we can progress as a species?  We’re seeing more and more big problems that will require us to work cooperatively if civilization is to survive, but we’ve reach a total impasse on communication, refusing to do anything because we can’t agree.

Let’s avoid the global warming issue for the moment since it’s such a touchy issue.  Many of the climate change deniers scoff at climate predictions because various scientists have made predictions in the past that have apparently turned out not to be true.  Or appeared that way for awhile.  Two books, The Population Bomb (1968) and The Limits of Growth (1972) are often used as examples of failed predictions.  The trouble is, these deniers didn’t wait long enough to give the forecasts time to unfold.

Forty years later, many people think the world is just fine with 6.7 billion people and figure we can grow much larger, and they don’t think our rich lifestyles show any limits.   Perception is everything, but we’re on a roller coaster that’s climbing to the peak of the Kingka Ka, because we haven’t started the blazing ride down yet.  Now that China and India have taken up our American consumer habits, and resources are starting to be fought over, and hundreds of little stories tell me that The Limits of Growth is about to come online,  I’m getting the feeling that we’ll arrive at the peak of the climb soon.  Hold on for the ride down.

The people with rose colored corneas, obviously don’t watch a lot of documentaries, or keep up with diverse science magazines.  Conservative news shows tend to focus on the same old tired issues while ignoring the little stories that shows a whole lot of different barometers are all falling.  It’s funny that millions welcome the Christian apocalypse, but can’t see the world possibly ending in some other way.  The trouble is, the world doesn’t end, we just end up in a big mess that we’ve got to clean up.

It worries me that so many people enjoy the end-of-days stories that are so popular.  Why is it so easy to believe that an imaginary superior being will destroy us, but so hard to believe that we can destroy ourselves through pursuing those same old seven deadly sins that that same superior being warned us against?  You can not drive a SUV through the eye of a needle to get to your destination.

Maybe it’s a matter of language, and science is not the language to use to communicate across the gap that divides us.  I’ve been listening to the Bible this past year, on my iPod.  I know it’s an odd thing for an atheist to do, but I consider it learning a language.  I find it fascinating that all the things that the New Testament teaches are the things we need to do to change ourselves to avoid problems like global warming, over population and dwindling resources.

I have been thinking for days on how to reply to global warming deniers, and it is now occurring to me that I can’t recommend studying science.  That isn’t their language.  My reply to them is to buy an iPod and get a good audio edition of the Bible and really listen to it.  Listening is far superior to reading, and start at the beginning.   Pay attention to what’s happening chapter by chapter.  I know you conservatives don’t like the word “evolution” but the Bible shows an evolution of spirit.  Pay particular attention to the transition between the Old and New Testament.  Fundamental thinking is based in Old Testament philosophy.  It teaches about nation building.  The New Testament teaches about soul building.  For the people of the Earth to survive climate change will require a lot of soul building.

It is my belief that climate change deniers are worried that changing the world requires changing themselves, and they just don’t want to change.

JWH 9/22/8

Going Paperless 5

Over at Discover Magazine they have an article “How Big Is Discover’s Carbon Footprint?” that is a perfect justification for going paperless.  At the end of the essay they campaign for the reader to recycle her issue of Discover Magazine, but I can’t help but wonder why they aren’t promoting electronic editions of their magazine.  Sure, if you read the paper copy, do recycle it, but also consider switching to a paperless solution.  Please read the article and try and imagine the impact that thousands upon thousands of magazines produced around the world has on the Earth.

Now that we have so many alternatives to paper I can’t help and wonder if the print publishing industry isn’t unethical.  The linked article above does give an excellent picture of what goes into producing a magazine.  I am currently a subscriber, but I plan on not renewing my subscription.  Don’t get me wrong, Discover is a fantastic science magazine.  I don’t want it to go out of business – in fact, I wished it was many magnitudes more successful because it provides valuable knowledge about our changing world.

Like I have pointed out, there are many ways to read a magazine other than by holding a paper copy in your hands.  I discovered and read this article through an RSS feed I have for the magazine.  I hope the publishers make plenty of money off the web edition because it easy and free to read.  If there was a Zinio or Kindle edition I’d consider them too, or even an audio edition from Audible.com. 

Zinio is an excellent way to read a magazine on your computer and have it look exactly like the paper copy.  On my twenty-two inch Samsung 2253bw LCD monitor, the standard magazine requires no horizontal or vertical scrolling to view a two page spread.  If I hold a paper magazine up to my monitor, it fits within the screen area, so the Zinio reader is perfect for the modern LCD screen.

What I would really like from Discover Magazine, or any other magazine for that matter, is a service rather than paper.  Publishers should offer two methods of delivery:  the free web based system paid for through advertising and a pay-for subscription service with extras.  If I paid extra I’d want easy to read electronic editions, full access to all the back issues, freedom from online ads but get to see the original print ads, the right to email full-text articles to friends, and other imaginative marketing bells and whistles.

I have to say though, the free RSS feed is a pretty groovy way to read Discover Magazine – I just need to figure out a way to put a LCD next to the porcelain seat in the smallest room of the house and I’d really wouldn’t ever need a paper copy.

Jim