Self-Actualization or Creation

I think the two choices for explanations of physical reality boil down to self-actualization or creation. The people who argue for self-actualization (and do they argue) assume that the universe contains in itself properties that caused all that has happened in it since its very beginning. This brings us to the initial difficulty.

The initial difficulty is that before the universe came into being it had no existence we can recognize, at least in terms of something observable or measurable, in other words something subject to science. Some people get around the initial difficulty by postulating an oscillating universe, one that expands and contracts but that is nevertheless self-existent. In this view, the Big Bang was the beginning of the current phase of expansion. Again, there is nothing left from past oscillations for scientists to measure or observe.

One argument for self-actualization that was new to me was the suggestion that what we call the positive part of the universe is balanced exactly by the dark energy and matter that exists so the universe is a net nothing. The person who wrote this possibly was unaware that both traditional Jews and Christians believe that the universe was created out of nothing. If in fact this suggestion were shown to be true, it would be a vindication of some religious beliefs, and undoubtedly require a major expansion of astrophysical knowledge.

Before the Big Bang was accepted as the correct explanation for the beginning of the universe, scientists and philosophers all the way back to the early Greeks had thought the universe to be static and self-existent in its attributes. This thinking is still carried over into present-day understandings. For example, one person dodged the issue of the origin of life by stating that it had nothing to do with the validity of the theory of evolution. For that person evolution was an explanation of almost all of life. The trouble with this older mode of thinking is that science has made our knowledge of everything physical far more complex.

In mathematics, solutions to problems generally begin with a set of initial conditions. It is just these initial conditions that pose more of a problem for science and philosophy than the working out of answers to how physical reality operates. This is because the initial conditions are established by one-time unobservable events. This results in sometimes conflicting ideas. For instance, we are told that all life on earth came from an original biological event. We are also told by some biologists that life will arise in the universe anytime conditions are right. You can probably see the contradiction. Since life has emerged on the earth the conditions are obviously right. So, how come it only happened once in five- billion years.

The space-time continuum is also a great mystery. It would seem to be in a chicken-and-egg relationship with the energy and matter that constitutes the universe. So, did it exist before the Big Bang or was there something in the Big Bang that brought it into existence? And how is it a property of the space-time continuum that it is almost infinitely elastic and that this elasticity produces what we call the force of gravity as a result of the space-time continuum being deformed by matter? The same kind of question applies to the weak force and the strong force. Where were they when no particles existed? Did they exist before particles or were they brought into exist by the formation of particles?

There are more questions for physics, and we have not even reached biology. Where did the properties of quantum mechanics come from? What formed the particular atoms that we arrange into the Periodic Table. Now we can go to biology. Why are there right-handed and left-handed molecules and why are organic molecules shaped in particular ways for specific functions? How did it come about that a genetic code was necessary for life and how did that code come into existence?

The idea of self-actualization becomes even more unlikely as we consider the things that make us uniquely human, such as culture, speech, music, art, abstract thought, technology, agriculture, imagination, conceptualizing and so forth. So why does self-actualization seem very attractive to many people. I think it has to do with two things: ego and rebellion. Our egos are another of our immaterial characteristics. We all seem to have one of either smaller or larger size. It seems to be that people who strongly believe in one of the various forms of self-actualization are people with large egos. I think that one such type, atheists, have egos so large they think they can push God clear out of the universe. That being the case, they typically are sure they are more intelligent than people who believe in creation.

Rebellion comes into the picture as a result of certain temperaments encountering authority figures, normally in their family or in a church where they were taken as children. One way of resistance for such people is to adopt contrary views. When this resistance meets with support in peer groups or educational institutions, it brings ego gratification and a source of identity that is hard to forego. That being the case, it is hard for people in this situation to abandon the idea of self-actualization despite the fact it requires the acceptance of large improbabilities. Self-actualization is in truth a harder belief than faith in creation. This is evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of the human race has always accepted that there was some spiritual entity that brought them and everything else into existence.

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Biology 2.0

I think the comments I wrote concerning an article published in the June 17, 2010 edition of The Economist news magazine titled “Biology 2.0” is a good place to begin a discussion of the creation of life. If we are to think accurately about the topic, we must have some common understanding of what we are thinking about. If, as I think, evolution is obsolete then we need to have a new biological paradigm to replace it. The following comments propose a start towards a new way of thinking about life.

The Economist writer first writes of a division of biology into pre- and post-genomic eras and then defines biology 2.0 as a post-genomic biology www.economist.com/node/16349358. Does he or she mean the 10-year period since the decoding of the human genome was the genomic era. Unlikely. It would be clearer to designate the previous biological era as that of evolution and the present one as genomic. With this clarification we can proceed to examine the question as to whether a paradigm shift has occurred or should occur.

Vitalism

According to the Economist writer “no biologist has really believed in vitalism for more than a century.” Too bad. Various philosophers and theologians from Aristotle on have believed that life is more than machinery. Had Henri Bergson used a term for his creative force in life something like “de nueve animel” rather than elan vital we could have acclaimed him for his remarkable insight. This is because it is DNA and quite possibly other coding systems that constitute the driving force of living systems. The Economist moves in this direction by allowing biology 2.0 to be neo-vitalistic. This is a small shift in the right direction.

More than Proteins

Living things are more than proteins. So much more. So much more that it is impossible to find a simple enough example to use as an illustration. Every thing that has life has a mind boggling complexity. This is why the old evolutionary biology seems hopelessly outmoded. To have rejected the creativity of an infinite God and replaced it with a very finite natural selection can now be seen as a choice that should be revisited. This is not to bring God into biological understanding but to set the bar of knowledge high enough to give due respect to its subjects.

Ghosts in the Machine

Physicists have been actively looking for the ghosts in their machine. Presently, in Switzerland, with the Large Hadron Collider they are eagerly searching for a particle that may or may not exist and that may or not give them a final understanding of particle physics. [Note: the Higgs boson was apparently found in July 2012.] At the same time physicists are searching the universe for the twin ghosts of dark matter and dark energy so they can “nail their hides to the wall.” Since the beginning of the twentieth century physics has worked its way through relativity, quantum mechanics and particle physics. Paradigm shifts all. It seems that biology is long overdue for a paradigm shift that will free it from the dead hand of Darwin and allow it to pursue the new understanding that life is formed and operated by software. This will involve the search for all the many unknowns still left to be found.

Biological Ghosts

One ghost that has turned up in the biological machine is the genomic code. A code is a language that can be read and has meaning. But the meaning is not physically in the code. It is an abstraction, just like it is not ink and paper that make a book but the content of the words. The genomic code is the language of life. After all the work evolutionists have done to keep any metaphysic out of biology an abstraction sneaks in by the back door. And it is a ghost that cannot be exorcized because it is a fundamental of biology. Let us hope that Biology 2.0 allows biologists to read the book of life and thus provide themselves with understanding and so produce benefits for the rest of us.