By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach
Photo credit: firstname.lastname@example.org
I read a piece last night, that was referred by a former colleague (boss at The Hill newspaper actually) which appeared in the Weekly Standard, that was essentially a book review, and a review of book reviews, of NYU Professor and noted American (US) philosopher and confirmed atheist, Thomas Nagel’s work: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, which examines various scientific and creationists doctrines, called:
The Heretic Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? By Andrew Ferguson. It’s too long to re-post here, but here is the link:
One of the more memorable quotations within it to me (apart from the line that spoke of being “ravaged by sheep”–LOL!) was:
“…But the human brain can do much more than this. It can perform calculus, hypothesize metaphysics, compose music—even develop a theory of evolution. None of these higher capacities has any evident survival value, certainly not hundreds of thousands of years ago when the chief aim of mental life was to avoid getting eaten.”
During my tenure (at the director level) at the American Institute of Physics, I was privileged to spend considerable time with many noted physicists, including even David Salzberg, UCLA Physics Professor and consultant to the television program The Big Bang Theory (smile). I had on my staff the very engaging and preeminent Nobel-prize-award handicapper, Dr. Phil Schewe (personal biographer of physicist Freeman Dyson), and other very key science-trained colleagues on my staff; spent considerable one-on-one time with AIP’s Executive Director, Fred Dylla (a friend), as a ghostwriter for him; and had “fun” and quite “lively” and enjoyable talks in several social settings and surrounding various committee meetings over time.with whom Dr. Dylla referred to as “my buddy,” Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather (NASA-Goddard Project Coordinator of the Webb Telescope, which one could loosely say is the next iteration of the Hubbell Telescope, slated to launch in 2018, if memory serves) about his Nobel-prize-winning work on “cosmic microwave background radiation” which, for most scientists, essentially cemented the big bang theory of the creation of the universe.
“We can not measure the time before time,” says Dr. Mather, whom I really like and respect.
It is a good question: What was there before “In the beginning, God…”?
Backtracking a bit, I received a mandate (and the resources and an exceptional team) from the AIP Executive Committee to create a platform to help them communicate their often complicated intellectual property to the general public—to highlight the role that science (and scientific research) plays in our everyday lives—thus the InsideScience.org news platform was born, please visit our “baby” when you get a chance (who knew???).
Anyway, I recently moved on from the AIP and the fine folks there, and somehow, philosophically speaking, after having many discussions there about Higgs boson, the other side of black holes and dark matter; having personally thumbed through and read some of the hand-written notes in Richard Feynman’s calculus primary-school-age text book (what a mind!) in the Niels Bohr Library (across the hall from my then-office);doing Q&A at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab; and almost daily breaking bread with the physics (and other scientific-society) elites, over discussions of the Big Bang. etc., what I came away with was a reinforcement of my faith, as mathematics, almost without exception, in my opinion, is a perfect universal language—I would venture to say, the language of God (along with music, which also, in my opinion as a musician, is fundamentally interpretative mathematics) that would have no organically motivated prompting or survivalist requirement to exist, as such, except to establish an exacting order for the sustenance (and in the case of music, for the enhancement) of the universe—particularly considering the delicate mathematical balances required for eco systems, such as Earth’s, to equate (and how certain music strains, I believe, speak to our very souls, to the point of drawing tears).
Even after those up-close, personal and most rewarding encounters with the very impressive big brains of science, I am left with lingering questions about the big bang and our ever-outwardly expanding universe:
If we are the products of one random, ”thoughtless” explosion, continually and uniformly expanding outward, why then, within our own solar system, as products of the fallout, does Venus spin in the opposite direction of Earth—alright, maybe a major asteroid impact?—no, it just doesn’t “add up.”
Why does the moon Triton orbit in the opposite direction of the rotation of its planet Neptune?
Mars has two moons: Deimos and Phobos, which revolve around it in opposite directions? Picture that view from a terrace, as they cross paths!
Thinking of those few systemic anomalies, the like of which are innumerable within the “natural order” that are, to me, figuratively indicative of the afterthoughts of an intelligent intent, which challenge the seeming perfection of our understanding of complex mathematics, about which even a Neanderthal, such as I, could be reduced to proclaiming: ‘Glory to God!’—roughly translated, ‘Wow!!!’
I am a man of faith, very pro science (and pro scientific research) and do not embrace or understand any mathematical calculation that would estimate life on earth in the range of thousands of years old. I can appreciate the passion of those who extrapolate from the bible the literal six-day-creation argument, but 2 Peter 3:8 clearly says “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Which thankfully, frees me up to embrace carbon dating, geology, archaeology, and the idea of much older intelligent life forms on planet Earth.
Modern science teaches us there are stars in the heavens (if one will pardon the expression) that are many thousand times larger than our sun. Our idea of a day is based on our limited experience with our relatively tiny sun, and Earth’s miniscule ~365-day annual orbit of it, a mere twinkling of an eye, in universal terms—but should add, I generally am not compelled to try to translate the divinely liturgical into the literal, but to try to glean to spirit of intent.
The Apostle Paul said “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1Corinthian 13:12)
That passage, among others, will just have to sustain me for now—after many years of suspicious religious indoctrination, inner turmoil, eye-glazing study, many “wilderness” walks, personal epiphanies and inexplicable gracious serendipity. And somehow, I find that scripture comforting. It allows me to continue to research, reason, reflect and opine, while aided, though my faith, to feel connected to something obviously beyond my scope to comprehend, with intentions that mostly outweigh my personal concerns, but, I believe, are clearly more decidedly directional than the orbits of the planets.