11 January 2008

Falling Down On The Job Again

Yes, it's been a few days since I've posted anything, and I don't know how you feel about that, but I'm not pleased.

I realize that there is more than one way of looking at this: while it's nice to keep my readers posted on any and all developments in Larryland (Livermoreland? Liverland?), it could be argued that it's better to wait until something of general interest happens. Otherwise, this thing becomes little more than a glorified LiveJournal (and I don't even know how glorified it could claim to be).

On the other hand, it could also be argued that if I have any pretensions or presumptions about being a *writer*, I should be able to turn the most mundane events or non-events into fascinating reading, even for people who don't have the slightest knowledge of or interest in who I am.

And as usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Speaking of which, I got some people over on the PPMB riled up when I claimed that by trying to explain away the origins of the universe with the Big Bang theory, scientists were merely offering their own version of "Let there be light" to compete with the many religious creation stories/legends/myths, take your pick that have been kicking around for as long as human beings have wondered how and why we got here.

I was being outrageously stupid, I was told; scientists have to measure and quantify and test and prove every theory, whereas the religious and the philosophically inclined can simply speculate and make leaps of blind faith when the numbers and/or the syllogisms don't add up.

And no matter how many times I pointed out that science was perfectly good at explaining and analyzing the workings of the universe after it came into being, it had not been able to offer a shred of insight into how the universe came into being. There was a Big Bang, they say, as if that answers everything. But if there was a Bang, there had to be something to go bang, and that something had to come from somewhere. Or else it materialized out of nothing, which would be an even more amazing and unexplainable phenomenon.

What I found interesting was how mad some partisans of science got when in fact I hadn't said anything at all against science apart from pointing out that there were certain questions it couldn't answer. "Idiot," I was told, "The Big Bang theory isn't meant to explain the origin of the universe." Okay, fine, I understand that. Now, instead of calling me names, why not simply answer the question of how the universe did originate?

Or else admit that you have no idea, something I'm perfectly willing to admit myself. But at that point, you'd be dangerously close to acknowledging my original point: that this is where science and religion meet up the same blind alley. And when I say "blind alley," I don't mean to disparage either science or religion, because I have a high regard for both, merely to note that even when we're able to trace existence back to within nanoseconds of the original Big Bang (or Creation, which to an outside observer might have looked very much like a Big Bang), we'll still have no insight whatsoever into what if anything went before it.

That's of course where the religiously inclined would offer up God as the all-purpose explanation, and the religiously disinclined scientists will come up with their own deus ex machina involving multiple dimensions and infinity turned in upon itself and similar stuff that you may have first seen explored in old issues of Superman comics.

Upshot: none of us know or are likely to know, at least not as long as we are confined to a human, earthly existence. But some of us are willing to admit we don't know, while others insist on constantly changing the subject.

7 comments:

amy said...

I'm currently trying to figure out a way to come back from the dead so I can spill the beans on this whole thing.

Bob said...

i think the problem is the - idea that something had to come from somewhere- you can't look at it this way- that's how religion looks at it. For example, you stated that for the Big Bang to happen something had to be there to collide...but by something you're meaning a mass...but it's really energy colliding. (E=MC2) take the M out and you have the CONSTANT and ENERGY, now to see "where does energy comes from" is a very "human" way to think of it -where did it come from-scientists admit they don't know- However to name the energy GOD and make fictitious myths about it mainly through human concepts, that's a different story.

Larry Livermore said...

I'm a little unclear as to why you "can't" look at a question in certain ways just because religion might look at it in the same way. Are you that insecure in your thinking that you're afraid of getting lumped in with "those" people simply because you examined all the options?

Just because religion looks at it one way doesn't make that way wrong any more than science looking at it another way makes it right.

Also: where did that colliding energy come from?

Bob said...

by "can't", --it had nothing to do with insecurity-- it has to do with science breaking down things into atoms, then atoms into energy, and energy just exists (it's the smallest remainder of what something is broken down too).

When you say Religion looks at it the same way...I don't think so. When you say "i'm scared of being lumped in...blah" - you're attacking me personally which has nothing to do with the argument. I majored in metaphysics (so there's not a lot of philosophical and personal attitude in it), and what you're taught is to "assume nothing", everything has to be proven, unproven, proven again, and plenty yet to be discovered. This unknown energy we're left with has yet to be discovered, but it has been proven to be the last part in the equation.

As we speak, an "accelerator" is being built between the border of France and Belgium. This accelerator is going to reenact the "big bang theory." Why has this been avoided in the press. Scientists actually have named the accelerated particles as "god particles." (also should be noted we're arguing about Religion - which are established practices and thoughts- rather than the idea of God "unknown undiscovered energy).

Larry Livermore said...

I've read many stories about the massive particle accelerator, so I don't think you can say the press is "avoiding" it. Obviously it's not going to get the kind of coverage that the election or the war or Britney's boobs are going to get, because it's not so clearly understandable to the general public.

And as I recall, once the accelerator is operational, it's hoped that it will be able to replicate conditions up to a few seconds - possibly even nanoseconds - AFTER THE BIG BANG. Note: after, not during, let alone before. The fact that scientists have nicknamed their sought-after force/entity/whatever the God particle is pretty telling, don't you think? I'd take it as an admission that they're as much in the dark as any of us when it comes to answering the ultimate questions.

You also say that it has been "proven" that energy is "the last part of the equation" and that it "just exists." Substitute "God" for "energy" and you're peddling the same line as the religious people, and for the sake of precision, let's bear in mind that when it comes to the fundamental nature and origin of energy, nothing has been "proven," merely theorized about.

Lastly, with respect to the particle accelerator's hoped-for ability to take scientists back to the dawn of creation, I'm reminded of the Biblical story about a group of pre-Christian "scientists" (well, they were, after a fashion) who figured they could find out what was behind this whole God business by building a tower at Babel that was high enough to reach into heaven. Let's hope the new particle accelerator produces happier and more fruitful results.

Bob said...

First off let correct you on a couple of things. I'm not arguing about the idea that something "unknown exists", that's the drive for science.Secondly, I don't know if the tower of Babel is the same as the accelerator (I'm sure you we're just joking). Lastly, it was Britney's cooter that got the press, not her boobs.

I though we we're discussing the way that science explains things, and the way that Religion explains things. As you stated, your friends said that science has to prove things and religion doesn't have to...I agree with that. When I said in a previous post, there's a different way of looking at things I meant, here we go:
It a very human way to think of things in terms of life span, it started here and ended here...this tends to run true with mass...a lot of theories I've read say that what if energy doesn't have a beginning and an end. That's the hard part to grasp, the fact that something wasn't created by something else. What if only mass can be created but energy just exists...sounds like nonsense to me too, but easier to swallow then a lot of religious rhetoric

Larry Livermore said...

::What if...energy just exists...sounds like nonsense to me too, but easier to swallow then a lot of religious rhetoric::

Energy "just exists?" Sounds exactly like what the nuns told me about God when as a small schoolboy I asked where he came from and who created him.