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Universe by chance
or a permanent creation
During the 20th Century, our situation changed completely.
As we discovered, our universe is pure relativity, it is abstract.
Cosmic energy creates everything, all the time, in a vast system of illusions
to which we belong.
All the matter in the universe, the matter of which we are made, the matter surrounding us, all this seemingly unquestionable reality which allows us to live, with the light that makes it visible, is made of energy, - energy transformed into particles, into waves guiding them, into units of four fundamental forces which hold the particles together.
We know it since Einstein's works appeared and since the discovery of quantum mechanics. This energy is transformed by a mysterious factor, described by Einstein as the square of the speed of light. It is difficult to imagine the square of a speed, but we should retain, here, the very beautiful image. Science, facing this mystery, associated itelf with poetry.
Atoms are mainly composed of emptiness. Their nucleus is about 10'000 times smaller than their total size, their electrons are gravitating at he outskirts, the rest is empty. But we are prevented from seeing any open space in them. We see matter as continuous, because we are caught in the system. With six electrons, six protons and a few neutrons in an atom, our eyes see carbon. When it is pure, we see a diamond.
It is the same as with movies. At twenty-four images per second, our eyes no longer see the images separately, we see the movement conveyed by them.
As some researchers said, quantum mechanics bring the proof that matter does not exist, but only tends to exist. It is made of quasi-mathematical active principles which operate a total deception for our senses.
The object of our science named physics has nothing physical any more, nowadays. Under our highly improved instruments, solliciting our imaginations to the limits of their capacity, matter has become completely de-materialized.
The universe began to take shape about fourteen billion years ago. It consists of several hundreds billions of galaxies, each one of them wheeling round in space an average of a hundred billions of stars, with all the planets they may have retained orbiting around them. Galaxies, as a rule, move apart from each other and so the universe is expanding, becoming bigger and bigger.
Astro-physicists tell us that at the starting point, on the instant of the Big Bang, all the matter of the universe was assembled at only one point of an extreme density and infinitely hot. From this emerging "point", the crushing blow of exploding matter spreaded into the emptiness of our universe. It started the chain of successive phenomena which modified matter, from very light to heavy elements. Hydrogen, which was almost the unique element formed at the beginning, moved away in clouds which are condensed here and there in space, thereby giving birth to the stars.
The stars of about the size of the sun burn a long time, but bigger stars tend to implode and then explode very quickly. The collapse of their superior layers and the densification of their central magma create a momentary sort of smithy, forging heavy elements with complicated structures. These are then dispersed in bundles. Such cataclisms throw into space bits of gases and metals which end up mixing their trajectories, cohering little by little to give birth to asteroïds and planets.
The shape of the universe is constantly modified, too, as it draws clusters and filaments of galaxies in a sort of ever-wider sponge, sumptuously brilliant.
The splendor of our nights and the apparent eternity of celestial bodies hide innumerable happy events and dramas, births of life, sudden combustions, lasting ice-ages, strikingly slow transformations : ceaseless evolution. The universe was not created, it is still being created.
The advent of life
Our Earth was formed four or five billion years ago. It was not immediately habitable, according to our criteria. During its formation, it went through terrifiying stages : covered with a primitive brackish soup, subjected to intense volcanic activity, surrounded by stinking unbreathable gas mixtures, jolted by ultra-violent storms, much too hot at certain times and places, too cold at others. The original atmosphere probably contained more than 50 percent of carbon dioxyde and was devoid of oxygen. The juvenile Earth was moreover submitted to an intense bombing of meteorites.
Life had to appear in such an environment. It's development depended wholly on the formation and enrichment of the DNA-molecule, the spiral ladder which is present in all living cells. In the restricted volume of a cell, it was necessary to assemble four sugar-like mixtures which had to shape up a series of bars, aligned to create a twined ladder like a code. These substances can only link two by two, so that each step is made of two elements out of the four. And when the ladder opens itself in its middle, each half-step automatically calls for the opposite molecule needed to complete it. Two similar ladders are then formed.
In addition, the DNA-macromolecules needed some desoxyribose, acting as a glue to attach the steps to the ladder, and molecules of phosphoric acid for the frame. But nothing else.
DNA-macromolecules do not alone constitute the nucleus of the living cell: they are the essential part of the chromosomes forming this nucleus. All the cells of a living entity contain the same number of chromosomes, i.e. 46 for the human body. The cell reproduces itself when all the chromosomes are split in two, in the core, and reassemble in two lots with exactly the same sequence. Then the hereditary message is transmitted.
Try to calculate the probability-degree linked to this major event on which our lives depended. Assembling the material for this very special helicoid in the exiguous volume of a cell was the acquired result of a highly improbable chain of events - whose occurrence in the right order had practically no chance to ever take place. However it did take place. Is it really possible that, in a few billions of years, winds, waves, bubblings and seisms rocked the primordial cells at sufficient length to produce this marvel?
The continuation is more wonderful still. To evolve from a bacteria to the multicellular complex organisms of nature, the spiral ladders had to be lengthened, chromosomes had to multiply, the core of each cell had to acquire billions of precisely coded pieces of information, etc. Biological reproduction mecanisms are evidently always subject to accidents, but as we easily guess this goes rather in the sense of a loss of information, - rarely towards its increase. Consequently, such alterations are generally letal.
Considering the evolution of species, we are told it was guided by the principle of "survival of the fittest". There again, if series of battles or other elimination processes took place, - where had the weaker species come from?
Pure chance, or by a will
Not so long ago, our ancestors knew they were made of flesh and soul on an Earth placed in the centre of everything, with just some smaller lights usefully revolving around it.
For our part, suddenly, as we discovered, we participate in a very relative sort of reality, (remember, it only tends to exist,) made of combinations of particles all identical to each other, up and until the contacts between our neurones. We are hosts and prisoners of a precious cosmic dust whirled around by orbital, galactic and inter-galactic migrations in a universe of ghastly magnitude and longevity. Our conscience was progressively formed along hundreds of millions of years on a bough of the evolution-tree only a little more complex than many others. And this conscience has just begun to know itself.
This must have sequels, consequences. We have to understand it is one of two things:
- Either the energy invested in our changing universe is a blind and raw force set in motion by pure chance. Most scientists obstinately sustain this option, but it has become more and more difficult to admit.
- Or the unfurling evolution of cosmic phenomena has an author, - an author endowed with this energy, consubstantial with this energy, who would use it to permanently create the universe. Us included, up to the movements in our brains, inevitably.
Matter, for us, has become a nebula of particles. Their ultimate reality escapes our senses and imagination. Subtended as it is by energy, we must admit that matter could - just as well - be of a sort of spiritual nature. Cosmic energy could shelter a spirit inventing the cosmos, same as one would recite a superb poem; producing life on Earth as a novel, or as a film, presented at the same time as it is being shot and assembled. Nothing proves it, but nothing either bars the possibility. A conscious power may have started this mega-firework propagating itself in all directions since the Big Bang. If it is the case, his work is far from being completed. It will continue long after the final freezing of poor little planet Earth in the solar system.
If it is by chance
If the raw and blind energy of nature is alone responsible, we have to acknowledge - seeing the results attained in us and around us - that it rendered perfect arbitrations at every step of its progress, ever since the Big Bang, and in particular all along the evolution of life on Earth. We must admire that it luckily used something like good judgment and perspicacity, reaching an amazing equilibrium between the forces which allow the creation to go on.
The chances to which we owe our lives were infinitesimal. Moreover they were seized at the exact instant when they were needed.
True is that nature, during all those billions of years, took the time to get opportunities of making us appear. But let us only think of the Earth, chancy amalgamation of debris from exploded stars. It has elements with heavy atoms, but also gases which form a breathable atmosphere, sufficiently but not exceedingly pressurized on the surface, and all the water needed for oceans, rains, irrigated lands, rivers and streams. It is rotating on itself, which avoids having one side burnt by the Sun. The axis of its rotation is leaning, compared to its orbital ellipse, which gives recognizable seasons to most of its regions. It is at the ideal distance from the Sun for its climate to be temperate. Nature may have been able to do as well elsewhere, but it would be difficult to do better.
If it all happened by chance, we have to accept that we disappear completely after our death. But the most serious threat, with death, is the suffering that can cause it, the grief of a forthcoming separation, the anguish that can seize us at its approach. Death itself, when it has taken us as sleep does, - we are no longer there to notice it. We fear in fact a nothing - strictly speaking, something that will never exist.
Therefore we must appreciate, as well and as much as we can, our luck of being alive in the superb ordinance of our world, and do our best to make this last as long as possible. Dreaming, meditating, we should feel in love-admiration with evolution as a whole. Acting, we must enter into a form of solidarity with everything that lives.
If there is an author
If the cosmos is someone's dream, if it is an author's poem, this author uses his energy not only for the gigantic dispersion of celestial bodies, but for the smallest details as well, in all the particles he sets into motion, in all the links these particles maintain, in all the contacts they make between themselves.
So the possible presence who could apply an intelligent design to the whole universe would also be creating us permanently. This presence would be dictating our thoughts and intentions through our neurones, so that our freedom becomes an illusion. But then it is a perfect illusion. Our actions would be produced by the presence and by us with an absolute simultaneity, in a more than perfect immediacy. The author would take great care to let us feel they are ours. If we are wanted and directed by such a presence, we cannot even notice it. We remain free, we keep our free will.
This is the only possible notion of an intelligent design fully compatible with the whole of science as it exists. Where science still hesitates over some mysteries, - like life-evolution, black matter, black-holes etc. - we probably hit the cosmic problems which needed some kind of invisible intervention. But if science eventually forces the issue, we shall find out that the intervention looked natural. It was disguised, it was discreetly covered up.
What difference would a presence make, for us? Mainly, the comfort of feeling that we are participating in a superb game. And the exciting liberty of choosing our part in it, knowing that it will always be endorsed. Our responsibility is no longer towards the author, but towards ourselves. We distinguish good and evil and therefore we should act so as to create more harmony in this world. We discover the delight of a universal and totally open spirituality, - free from any ties, like belief in absurd dogmas, or obligation to pray at fixed hours. Finally, it becomes possible again that our life continues after our earthly life, under a form inconceivable in advance.
The only possible author is immanent. He cannot be transcendental. In this world, we are not facing a God of wrath or mercy. We are not in front an observing Judge, nor of a God-character who intervenes only when he feels like it. Such Gods cannot exist. They are obviously local and anecdotic creations of our minds. Two hundred million galaxies away from here, what meaning could our God the Father or Allah-u-Akhbar have, - what action could they perform?
How could anyone, for just a moment, imagine that a creator is here exclusively to mind about us, when our galaxy is surrounded by hundreds of billions of other galaxies, all equally rich in planets around their stars? Our monotheist religions, contradictory between themselves, are not only ill-addressed, if an author exists, but today clearly reveal their presumptuous folly.
Created by a presence, we are not sovereign individuals placed on top of a creation with which we can do what we want. We are a part of a whole that we must learn anew to know and respect. We should feel even more intensely in communion with life as a whole.
A brief history of monotheism
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© Andre Chollet, Geneva, July 1999
Last revised January 2008