Ignoring the “E word” for the time being, please realize there are

 

3 BIG QUESTIONS

ABOUT CHANGE

 

That a thinking person will want to ask,

but for MORE you’ll need to use the DOOR…

 

[MORE]

 

Many have spent a significant time in and around E _ _ _ _ _ _ _ n - related issues, whether in hands-on biological research, teaching or taking notes in classrooms, listening to debates, or arguing across the table in the wee hours with a pitcher of liquid comfort nearby (coffee, for me, please).

A short note here, however clever, cannot trump a lifetime of honest thinking and study. We know that. And in this talk-as-we-go series* we’re not quite sure from your responses what should come next, but while we dig further, we will offer these comments and ask several questions.

First 6 comments, then 3 questions with some things to think about (with stand-up science guy ‘SG’ being our foil this time, while A Dozen Seconds ‘DS’ will be true blue):

(1)  You and I exist and are real.

(2)  The world around us is real.

(3)  Our perceptions and feelings about ourselves and the world (though often imperfect representations) are real. (Sound familiar?)

We assume these, and have discussed them. (Some may think we’re overstating, but we’ll ignore that.)  Building on this, a perception easy to make and think about–whether seriously looking at layers of fossils, or talking with dog breeders, or just seeing the effects of our growing older–leads to our (4), (5), and (6).

(4)  Living things change with age and eventually die.

(5)  Taking a “long” view, many living things over many, many years seem to become more complex.

(6)  “Outside forces,” with or without minds**, can cause living things to change.

Now for the questions:

(1)  Why is there something instead of nothing?   

Yes, there are philosophers and scientists asking, and writing about, that question! Here we are and there are things around us! And many of these things are quite complex–automobiles, my computer typing this, and–most of all–the human body. And our minds, or human consciousness that we’ve gone on so much about. There is something. We have to deal with it!

(2)  Why do things change?

Why do some things “come and go”?  [Enter DS: “Why do things get ‘used up’?  Why don’t things just “sit there” and stay the same? Why do some things get more complex? Science, of course, provides long lessons from astronomy, chemistry, and biology that tell us that everything exploded outward from a point as hydrogen atoms and smaller atomic pieces 13.7 billion years ago and eventually, through a bazillion small changes, ended up in me typing these words and you reading them.”

And this is so often followed by [Enter SG: “All this was and is totally accidental and random. Don’t forget that!”

“Oh?  Why?”

“Because it had to be.”

(3)  Is there “Something Behind”*** “something” and how it changes?

“Of course not!”

“Oh?  Why do you say that?”

“That would require something ‘supernatural,’ and we know that doesn’t exist.”

“You know that?  How then do you account for the bazillion changes that had to happen, going from exploding hydrogen atoms to my fingers writing about them?  You only have 13.7 billion years to do this!”

“Haven’t you heard of the ‘Multiverse’?”

“Yes, we’ve even written about some of this stuff ****, but it’s tough to understand. Even scientists disagree about multiverse ideas…Has any of it been proven?”

“That’s a cheap shotgun-type question!  You’re just leading up to saying that 13.7 billion years isn’t enough time in this ‘fine-tuned’ universe as you call it for a whole bunch of ‘happy accidents’ to occur that happened from the beginning until now. Isn’t that correct?”

“I take it your answer to my question is ‘No.’  My answer to your question is ‘Yes.’ “

“Look, can’t you see: If we have a “multiverse,” or an infinite number of universes, not just ours–we shouldn’t be elitist, should we?–then anything is possible. We, then, are the place where all the happy accidents came together! No God is required. There is no God or room for superstition. As Carl Sagan might say about a multiverse, ‘We’re the pale blue dot in a sea of pale blue dots in a sea of pale blue dots.’ *****”

“But is there any proof of any universe beyond our own?”

“You don’t get it, do you? There’s no God…But there are…there has to be an unlimited number of universes beyond ours so that, mathematically, all the ‘happy accidents’ can happen. Otherwise”–he gives me a ‘preacher’s stare’–“this conversation could never take place.”

 

Yes, we’ve staged these, and you may think that we’ve forced things to make ourselves look good. And that we’ve overlooked some important questions ourselves. Okay, call it home-court advantage.

But you might be surprised how many arguments follow this pattern. Naturalists are not short on appeals to faith. That is, faith in the “right kind of possibilities” even when evidence is in short supply or totally lacking.

 

__________________________

* Yes, this is a “talk as we go” series.  We’re hardly rehashing old notes from the file…

** For example, “with”: breeding animals to get desired characteristics; “without”: change in available food suppy, disease, atmospheric change.

*** “Something Behind.” Once again, we’re using C. S. Lewis’s term for the possibility of a creator or designer behind the Big Bang.

**** Some of the multiverse thinking, and the different directions it can take, are reflected in our earlier post on the 6 ways the world can end. (See “Time Ends” in the science archive on May 3, 2013.

***** For the “pale blue dot” (which Sagan used several times) see Sagan, Carl (1994). Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1st ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 0-679-43841-6.