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August 4, 2010
As posed by Drs. Carl Sagan & Stephen Hawking
(Section II, Ch. 1 of The Heart Doctrine)
“As we learn more and more
| Modern science provides one set of answers to
of life. In the twentieth century, scientists have articulated an
astonishing set of ideas about cosmic origins. The creation of
universe is now traced back to the first moments of existence,
to have been some fifteen billion years ago. Physicists and
describe the first instant of creation when the universe was 10 -43
seconds old, and less than a billion times smaller than the diameter of
a proton in size, 10-35 cm! Such an infinitesimally
point source is called a singularity. Scientist propose
the Universe had such zero point, or singularity condition origins.
Physicists are also seeking to unify the fundamental laws of physics into one “superforce” or “superstring” theory, which would have ruled creation at this first instant, before being divided into the various particles and forces of nature. Physicist Paul Davies describes this as the God like Superforce. Thus, scientists have traced the universe back to what can be described as a zero point, wherein all of the forces of nature were once unified.
Beyond the singularity, physicists are concerned with the hidden dimensions of the quantum vacuum, the underlying source of all things. The quantum vacuum is not really nothing, as it appears to physical perception, but somehow contains everything in a latent or unmanifest state. One modern physicist declares: “The whole of physics is in the vacuum.” The quantum vacuum is both the void and the plenum, the nothingness and its potencies. At the beginning of time, all the quanta (particles) composing material reality are thought to have manifested out of the nothingness of the quantum vacuum, through a process of symmetry breaking in higher dimensions of space. Physicists label this creation scenario, vacuum genesis, and sometimes comment on its likeness to the creation ex nihilo of mystical and Christian traditions.
From that first instant of creation to the world today, scientists have pieced together a fascinating, seemingly consistent and rational view of the origins and evolution of matter, the universe and solar system, the planet, biological life, and ultimately humankind. There are theories about the origins of matter, the formation of stars, galaxies and solar systems, the origins of molecular substances and cells, and the evolution of plants, animals and human beings from lower life forms. Biologists, biochemists and medical researchers are busily unravelling the mysteries of genetics, the mechanisms of evolution, and the dynamics of health and disease.
At the same time, neurologists and neuro-psychologists have explored what is considered to be the most complex and distinctive human organ, the brain, mapping and dissecting its structures and analysing its functions. The nature of intelligence and the capacities of thought and cognition have been subject to countless studies and experiments. In fact, philosophers, psychologists and sociologists seem to have probed every conceivable quirk and quark of the human psyche and its immensely complicated behavioural and emotional patterns.
In every department of the natural and social sciences, a massive literature, bodies of theory and technology have been accumulated, documenting the advances made over the past century. This is an amazing feat which contemporary science writers celebrate and praise lavishly. Clearly, modern science affords us profound and penetrating insights into the nature of reality, and into questions of origins. Imagine that, that the scientist trace the origin of the Universe to a point source!
|Dr. Carl Sagan was a celebrated
and exo-biologist, science writer, television personality, and host of
the highly acclaimed Cosmos T.V. series. He is perhaps
most widely read of popular science writers who present modern
ideas, facts, and philosophy to the general public. In that role,
Dr. Sagan romantically praised the advances of modern science and
eloquently on the topics of the nature and philosophy of science, the
religion, environmental and cultural issues.
In his writings, Dr. Sagan covered a wide spectrum of subjects. These ranged from the creation of the universe to the evolution of humankind; the nature of the brain and mind; explorations of alleged paranormal phenomena; environmental and political issues, and even discussion of the “God hypothesis.” In Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science, Dr. Sagan examined the viability of religious teachings in view of science’s spectacular advances. In a chapter, A Sunday Sermon, he ventured into areas where even angels might fear to tread, to address the God hypothesis. In his sermon, Dr. Sagan argues that, as science advances, we are able to explain natural phenomena without recourse to supernatural explanations. As an example, he considers the opening of a morning glory flower. He suggests that at one time, people used to believe that any such event was due to “direct microintervention by the Deity.” Thus, in order for the flower to open, “God had to say “Hey, flower, open.” Dr. Sagan then explains that scientists can now account for the opening of the morning glory because they understand phototropism and plant hormones, and consequently, there is no need to refer to any sort of divine microintervention. Sagan then applies this same line of reasoning to the whole scheme of creation and evolution, and concludes: “As we learn more and more about the universe, there seems less and less for God to do.” (1979, p.286).
| Dr. Sagan’s comments pose what I, the fool,
“the problem of God's contracting universe.” Is it
correct to say that, as science advances, there is less and less for
to do? Has science’s progress really removed God from the entire
skein of causality all the way back to the beginning, including the
moment of creation?
Carl Sagan expresses sentiments common to scientists: that science offers the only valid and comprehensive approach to understanding the nature of reality. Science involves submitting hypotheses to tests of empirical evidence, in terms of a specific set of rules and procedures, which allows one to falsify propositions. It represents a rational and objective body of knowledge, in dramatic contrast to religious and mystical teachings. Dr. Sagan argues that the beauty and strength of the scientific method is that it has freed humans from the dogma and irrationality imposed by religious authority. The scrutiny of science exposes the subjectivity of religious insights and pronouncements. In this spirit, he explains, scientists have come to regard all references to God as invocations of a discredited and unnecessary explanation.
Sagan offers various examples of natural phenomena which were once believed to be caused by supernatural forces, but which gradually yielded to scientific understanding. He states that when Newton explained planetary motion in terms of the theory of gravitation, it was no longer necessary for the “angels to push and pummel the planets.” Similarly, when the Marquis de Laplace offered a rational explanation of the origin of the solar system, there was then no need to invoke God to be involved in its creation. (1979, p. 286) Of course, Dr. Sagan's stories are quite entertaining, but was he really serious about these scientific ideas disproving God? Who exactly is it that said angels had to push and pummel the planets, or that the existence of God is negated by a theory of gravity? Did Carl Sagan really believe that God takes time out from his busy schedule to tell morning glories, “Hey, flower, open”?
These examples are most peculiar. This representation of a religious world view is a caricature; a straw man erected in order to push and pummel it with the formidable power of scientific thought. By casting religious views in such simplistic terms, Dr. Sagan fixs the outcome of his debate between science and religion. Why would a theory about the origin of the solar system profoundly challenge the necessity of a God being involved in the origins of things? How do these modern theories, or scientific theories in general, bear upon the issue of whether God, or Gods, exist? Dr. Sagan confidently dismisses the possibility that spiritual or religious perspectives might offer legitimate scientific hypotheses and asserts his belief that all religious and spiritual world views are inferior to science, the epitome of rationality and objectivity.
In The Mind of God, Paul Davies, another popular science writer, presents a dialogue between an atheist and a theist, a scientist and a theologian, to illustrate arguments about the existence of God in light of scientific advance. Davies explains the current concept of “the God of the gaps” and discusses how God got “squeezed out” of science. Essentially, the thrust of the atheist’s argument is the same as that which Dr. Sagan presents: that as science advances, there is less and less for God to do, as He gets squeezed out. Davies’s atheist explains that science’s capacity to do away with a God or gods now extends all the way back to the very questions of origins, and interpretations of the meaning of the “big bang:”
Atheist: At one time, gods were used as an explanation for all sorts of physical phenomenon, such as the wind and the rain and the motion of the planets. As science progressed, so supernatural agents were found to be superfluous as an explanation for natural events. Why do you insist on invoking God to explain the big bang? ... Theists have always been tempted to seize on any process that science could not at the time explain and claim that God was still needed to explain it. Then, as science progressed, God got squeezed out. You should learn the lesson that this “God of the gaps” is an unreliable hypothesis. As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer gaps for him to inhabit. I personally see no problem in science explaining all natural phenomena, including the origin of life. I concede that the origin of the universe is a tougher nut to crack. But if, as it seems, we have now reached the stage where the only remaining gap is the big bang, it is highly unsatisfying to invoke the concept of a supernatural being who has been displaced from all else, in the “last-ditch” capacity. (1992, pp. 58-9)The problem of the God of the gaps is essentially the same as the problem of God’s contracting universe. As science advances, there are fewer “gaps” in scientific theory, and less and less reason to regard creation as having had “a creator,” or to be the result of supernatural or metaphysical causes. Life can be explained most simply in terms of purely natural processes.
The theist’s view that God might somehow be involved in the mysterious nature of the big bang and the emergence of a singularity, is regarded as a last ditch effort to invoke a superfluous God hypothesis. This is the line of thinking and attitude expressed by those enthused with modern science and technology, who believe that they are close to solving the mysteries of origins.
In God and the New Physics, Paul Davies warns that, even when we do find some gap in scientific theory, we should be most cautious about invoking supernatural agencies or forces as causes:
"What once seemed miraculous ... perhaps requiring a supernatural input at the big bang, now seems explicable on ordinary physical grounds, in the light of improved scientific understanding. However astonishing and inexplicable a particular occurrence may be, we can never be absolutely sure that at some distant time in the future a natural phenomenon will not be discovered to explain it. (1983, p. 31)Most scientists are of the opinion that there are few remaining gaps for God to inhabit, now that we are close to understanding the ultimate issues of universal origins.
The prominent physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, attempts to explain creation in such a way to avoid the God hypothesis. In his best seller, A Brief History of Time (1988), Dr. Hawking puts forth the view that if scientists are successful in developing a unified theory of quantum gravity, then it would do away with the necessity of a big bang singularity. The problem for the scientists, as Hawking explains, is that:
"... all our theories of science are formulated on the assumption that space-time is smooth and nearly flat, so they break down at the big bang singularity, where the curvature of space-time is infinite. ... predictability would break down at the big bang. Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacked of divine intervention. ... There were therefore a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that there had been a big bang." (1988, p. 46)In Hawking’s unified theory of quantum gravity, the mysterious singularity would be “smeared out” according to the uncertainty principle of quantum theory. In this case, he argues, science will have arrived at a completely natural explanation of the origin of the universe, and there is no need to invoke any metaphysical causes, or God, even in the beginning:
"... the quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no need to specify the behaviour at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. ... The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE." (P. 136)Dr. Hawking portrays himself as explaining away the big bang singularity in terms of natural laws, so that there is nothing left for God to do. He takes this logic back to beginning of time, to show how we do not need mysticism, religion or God, now that we have science. In an interview, Hawking comments: “We still believe that the universe should be logical and beautiful. We just dropped the word ‘God.’” (Weber, 1986, p. 12) Of course, only heaven knows why Dr. Hawking thinks that there is nothing “mystical” about the singularity if it is smeared out into the unity. Of course, Hawking does not consider any of the mystical teachings about such point source origins, in his account of science and religion.
Most orthodox scientists hold pejorative views of religion and mysticism, regarding them as pseudo-scientific, irrational, superstitious, vague and misty belief systems. Charles Tart (1975) once commented that “being a mystic is considered pathological by most ... One of the most deprecating remarks you could make about a scientist's work is to say that it shows signs of being ‘mystical.’” (p. 111) This attitude is evident in Hawking’s comments in an interview with Rene Weber (1986):
"I very much disapprove of mysticism. ... I think it’s a cop-out. If you find theoretical physics and mathematics too hard, you turn to mysticism. I think people who have this idea about mysticism in physics are people who really can’t understand the mathematics." (p. 210)Many scientists would agree with Hawking’s contention, that those who turn to mysticism do so because they are incapable of meeting science’s intellectual challenges. Thus, Heinz Pagels (1985), in an otherwise marvelous book on the creation of the universe, quotes the physicist R. Feynman, and concludes:
“If you expected science to give all the answers to the wonderful questions about what we are, where we are going, what the meaning of the universe is, and so on, then I think you could easily become disillusioned and look for some mystic answer. How a scientist can accept a mystic answer, I don’t know. I can’t believe the special stories that have been made up about our relationship to the universe at large because they seem to be too simple, too connected, too provincial. People ask me if science is true. I say no, we don’t know what’s true. We’re trying to find out, and everything is possibly wrong.” (Feynman, quoted p. 368) And where am I? I am in the present, this imperfect moment, trying to remain vulnerable to its intense specificity. There is no other time for me to be or place to go, no cosmic consciousness nor facile mysticism into which I can retreat." (p. 370)In the views of Hawking and Feynmann, mysticism is nothing more than subjective fancy, the refuge of the intellectually challenged and emotionally self-indulgent–in contrast to the objective knowledge of science. Certainly, no one would look to mysticism for insights into the subtle dimensionality of creation, or the mysteries of human consciousness.
It is readily apparent on reading Sagan, Pagels, Hawking and other popular science writers, who explore creation issues (i.e., Jastrow, Asimov, Davis, Gribbin, Trefil), that these scientists are completely ignorant as to what esoteric religious and mystical teachings actually entail, and how they compare to modern scientific theories. They confidently dismiss mysticism as nothing but vague pseudo-sciences, yet there is no academic or scholarly consideration of mystical or esoteric doctrines. In their eagerness to deny mysticism relevance or significance in the search for understanding ourselves and the cosmos, scientists betray their unmistakable ignorance of the subject.
There is, however, one type of God that scientists are willing to admit. In his Sunday Sermon, Dr. Sagan comments that he is frequently asked after his lectures if he “believes in God,” and that his answer depends on what the word “God” is taken to mean. Like other scientists, Sagan is willing to accept the idea of God if we equate this concept with the sum of the natural laws of nature, but not if we identify God with some bearded patriarch sitting on a throne counting sparrows, or saying “Hey, flower, open.” For Dr. Sagan, the God alternatives seem to be exclusively restricted to a choice between bearded patriarchs and natural laws. Furthermore, he seems to be entirely unaware of the complex metaphysical models and systems which mystical and spiritual teachings put forth.
But clearly, a religious or spiritual person could hardly accept Sagan’s identification of God as simply being a label for the sum of physical and natural laws. From a religious or mystical viewpoint, God transcends the laws of nature and is the source of these laws. This Divine Being is omnipresent (present everywhere as the source of all things), omnipotent (containing all potencies for creation and cosmic manifestation) and omniscient (all knowing). These attributes suggest that God is a form of Absolute Consciousness and Being which pervades and sustains creation, and yet is simultaneously transcendent, existing beyond the manifest Cosmos. Dr. Sagan may believe that he is appeasing devotional and religious sentiment, but this God of science–as the sum of natural laws–does not coincide with religious or mystical viewpoints.
Furthermore, those who believe in God regard human beings as having a spiritual or soul nature, in addition to the life of the material body/brain. God is the source of the consciousness and life within the individual, the source of spirit and soul. From a religious and mystical viewpoint, all the laws of nature and of the psyche are of supernatural origin. The “soul hypothesis” is a corollary of “the God hypothesis.”
Despite his rather limited imagination on the subject of God, Carl Sagan is–excuse the expression–a brave and hearty soul. Thus, he offers some encouragement for the religiously-minded suggesting that:
“... a questing, courageous and open mind seems to be the essential tool for narrowing the range of our collective ignorance on the subject of the existence of God.” (1979, p. 311)How true this is! The questions of the existence of God, spirit and soul, do need to be approached with a questing, courageous and open mind, in order to overcome our ignorance about these important subjects. Unfortunately, scientists are not typically exposed to the esoteric side of religious and mystical teachings, and dismiss these possibilities without at all understanding what they entail.
Elsewhere, Dr. Sagan gets to the heart of the problem in his discussion of religion and science noting::
"... it is a kindness neither to science nor religion to leave unchallenged inadequate arguments for the existence of God. Moreover, debates on such questions are good fun, and at the very least, hone the mind for useful work. Not much of this sort of disputation is in evidence today, perhaps because new arguments for the existence of God which can be understood at all are exceedingly rare. (1979, p. 130)From a scientific perspective, traditional arguments for the existence of God are inadequate and superficial. They are untestable and cannot be falsified, and are therefore pseudo-scientific. Science meanwhile discovers natural laws, and we might question how it would ever be possible to discover any God, demigods, divine beings, or other supernatural forces in the phenomena of nature, according to scientific principles. As Carl Sagan says, arguments for the existence of God, which can be understood at all within a scientific perspective, are exceedingly rare. The matter would seem to end here, with science and religion a world apart and irreconcilable.
Paul Davies’ atheist elaborates these same points:
Atheist: ... unless you (the theist) have other reasons to believe in God’s existence, then merely proclaiming “God created the universe” is totally ad hoc. It is no explanation at all. ... One mystery (the origin of the universe) is explained only in terms of another (God). As a scientist I appeal to Occam’s razor, which then dictates that the God hypothesis be rejected as an unnecessary complication. ... the bald statement that “God created the universe” fails to provide any real explanation unless it is accompanied by a detailed mechanism. One wants to know, for example, what properties to assign this God, and precisely how he goes about creating the universe, why the universe has the form it does, and so on. In short, unless you either provide evidence in some other way that such a God exists, or else give a detailed account of how he made the universe that even an atheist like me would regard as deeper, simpler, and more satisfying, I see no reason to believe in such a being. (1992, pp. 59-60)Within-Without from Zero-Points takes up the challenge posed by Dr. Sagan , Dr. Hawking and Davies’ atheist. The aim is to elaborate the archaic models of how metaphysical and supernatural forces serve to create and sustain material creation, and to illustrate the application of such a perspective. This is a model of "intelligent design" based upon the study of the esoteric metaphysics articulated within the mystical and religious texts of the world religions. Otherwise, if we do not have a model of Intelligent Design, no further progress can be made in the theist-atheist debate. The theist will argue that nature shows evidence of intelligent design, and the atheist will argue that it doesn't--that it is just all chance and randomness, and order inherent to material reality.
A substantive God theory is needed which describes the mechanisms and dynamics of divine, spiritual and psychical forces and how these are related to material processes--hence, simplifying the known, predicting new observations and allowing for empirical tests and verification.
In fact, mystical, occult and metaphysical teachings provide just such detailed explanatory schemes, although they are deeply hidden and obscure. The fundamental cosmic principles of creation from mystical teachings provide a profoundly valuable explanatory schemes and model of intelligent design. These principles should be applicable to investigating phenomena on all levels of creation, within any domain of knowledge, science or reality. However, in order to uncover this “hidden wisdom,” it is necessary to undertake a certain degree of special training and to go beyond solely intellectual efforts in apprehending these ancient insights and truths. The study of the mysteries of life cannot be separated from the study of oneself and the nature of consciousness in the inner world.
Of course, scientists feel awe in the face of the mysterious nature of existence and admit to their ignorance on the ultimate unknowns. Carl Sagan exemplifies this attitude, and so, at times, does Stephen Hawking. In Shirley MacLaine's (1989) popular new age book Going Within, she recounts a rather unusual and paradoxical interaction with Dr. Hawking and his wife, Jane:
"I don't remember who made the initial foray into the discussion of “truth beyond what is provable”. ... In any case, Jane (Mrs. Hawking) said she was often frustrated with Stephen and his scientific approach to truth because she felt that there was an explanation for life that lay in the lap of the Gods and the heart. ... “I don't like mysticism,” Stephen said via his voice box computer. “But my wife and I don't always agree.” He smiled at her and then at me. “But I need the heart because physics isn't everything.” He hesitated a moment and then said, “I need heart and physics, but I believe that when I die, I die, and it will be finished.” ( pp. 297-298)Intuitively, Dr. Hawking seems to feel that there might be something to the heart, something beyond his physics. On the other hand, with his mind and intelligence, Dr Hawking “believes” that when he dies, that's it. He will cease to be and there will be no simple retreat into mystical unity, God or heaven.
Within/Without from Zero-Points explores new arguments and theories, provides original evidences about the existence of God, and points to the reality and causal significance of metaphysical dimensions and principles. The framework developed is based on a wide range of esoteric mystical teachings and focuses on four main subject areas: 1) the origin and nature of human consciousness; 2) a metaphysical model of nature with applications to the data, theories and enigmas in modern physics; 3) a mystical account of creation which elaborates some of the mechanism and dynamics, pertinent to modern views in physics and cosmology; and 4) a view of evolution in its spiritual and metaphysical meaning, with applications within the life sciences. Explorations in all four areas provide what I, the fool, believe is a highly original perspective on the “God of the gaps.” Within-Without from Zero Points is a serious and scholarly attempt to take up these issues of metaphysics, science and religion and address them in a new way, based upon the wisdom teachings of humankind.
Certainly, the God hypothesis and the soul hypothesis are not granted serious consideration by those who subscribe to Dr. Sagan’s philosophical approach to the universe, nor by adherents of Dr. Hawking’s interpretations of quantum gravity theory. However, in the light of esoteric teachings, we can propose a physics with a heart, and in fact, penetrate to the heart of physics. The key to exploring the God hypothesis actually lies within the physics and metaphysics of the heart itself, the mysteries of zero points and higher space dimensions.
Scientists simply do not understand what
teachings entail and how such ideas are related to scientific
Consequently, when Dr. Sagan turns his careful thinking to
realities and the existence of divinity, he ends up telling us about
talking to flowers, or angels pushing and pummelling the planets.
In this rare book, we will attempt to “modernize the God hypothesis"
through a comparative study of modern psychology, physics and
and the ancient wisdom and secret doctrines of the mystics. This
is a worthwhile endeavour, even if it is only “to hone our minds
useful things.” At least it can be good fun, as Dr. Sagan
and it might allow us to integrate physics and the heart, for Dr.
It also will allow us a new and yet ancient way of understanding
Design within nature, and ourselves.
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