Contemporary thinkers who attempt to reclaim the universe as cosmos have all but abandon the fixed structure of classical cosmologies in light of the pervasively evolutionary character of the universe revealed by modern science. Nonetheless, such thinkers -- whether they are religious or secular -- share the desire of the ancient Greeks to provide a consistent and meaningful framework for the world of human experience, by relating it to the principles governing all of reality. The cosmos is a complex and orderly system, and the word cosmos can refer to the world of human experience and to the universe as a whole.
For people of faith, the very word cosmology raises issues of time and creation, beginnings and endings. Antique cultures ascribed creation to the realm of the divine. But according to contemporary cosmologists the universe began with a great explosion known as the Big Bang, after which the stars and galaxies slowly formed over billions of years. Just as Darwin proposed that the evolution of life was a long, slow, and gradual process, so cosmologists now believe that our universe evolves by long slow processes.
Mythology, religion and science all suggest that the universe came into being out of nothing, a finite amount of time ago. Indeed, many contemporary religious believers see the Big Bang as providing confirmation for the Christian notion of creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing). Interestingly, when evidence of the Big Bang was first discovered in the late 1920's with Edwin Hubble’s finding that the universe was expanding, many scientists rejected the idea because they thought it smacked of religion. If the universe had a beginning they felt, then it must have had a creator. But that would be unscientific. At the time, the prevailing view was that the universe had existed in much the same state forever and that it therefore had no beginning.
Hubble's discovery that the universe is expanding put an end to this static notion of the universe and suggested that the cosmos had a definite starting moment. Moreover, this view was supported by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which provided a beautiful set of equations to describe how a universe could arise out of nothing. Ironically, the tables have now been turned with some scientists today arguing that the Big Bang demonstrates that the universe came into being by purely natural processes needing no supernatural power.
The English physicist Stephen Hawking, in his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time", suggested that if current cosmological theories turn out to be true then the creation of the universe will have been completely explained by the laws of physics. In that case, Hawking asks, what role would there be for a creator? But again, where Hawking sees science as writing God out of the picture, others take a different view.
Physicist Paul Davies, for example, has written that the beauty and order of the laws of physics themselves suggests there must be something behind those laws, something driving the mathematical beauty and order in the universe. Physicists John Polkinghorn and John Barrow believe the incredibly finely balanced mathematical order of the universe suggests there must be some kind of intelligent force responsible.
Both Hawking and Davies have associated God with a so-called "theory of everything" - a single theory that physicists hope will one day unite general relativity with quantum mechanics, thereby bringing the entire universe under one grand mathematical umbrella. This theory is a major goal of contemporary theoretical physics, and it is this which Hawking has famously linked to "the mind of God". Perhaps more than any other science, cosmology is a case where one can either see God reflected in the picture, or not. In the end, science neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. More often than not, the scientific evidence can be read either way.
When Marilyn Ferguson wrote the Aquarian Conspiracy, a lot of us breathed a sigh of relief. She made it seem that the millennium would indeed usher in a Brave New World with sanity somehow still intact. Just for fun, try re-reading her and you might be amazed how our perspective has changed she wrote it.
But at least some of her hopeful notes for the future New Age are still exstant. One was a spiritual perspective known as Gaia, which is a belief that Earth is a living being and that all life forms are its offspring.
"The Gaia hypothesis points to stable conditions, such as oxygen levels and climate, as evidence that living organisms maintain a life-sustaining environment. The theory has been defined and argued in numerous ways, and has as many critics as adherents. It is in need of more explicit formulation before it can be examined as a true scientific theory.
GaiaLINK Project celebrates human magnificence, growth of consciousness, spiritual evolution and ingenuity, as a "heroic journey to an unparalleled future and to participate in the process of discovering and responsibly inventing solutions to problems we have created in a state of innocent hubris." They declare that it is possible for Humans on earth to live harmoniously with each other and all living creatures and systems, to create a contextual shift. This group wants to reach the general public to create an environment of joy and well being for generations to come."The best way to predict the future is to invent it." -- Alan Kay
The GAIA HYPOTHESIS, originated in England by scientist James Lovelock came up with the perception that "the entire range of living matter on Earth, from whales to bacteria from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity... endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constutuent parts." GAIA is the name given by the ancient Greeks for the Goddess of the Earth, mother of all living beings. Today GAIA represents all the living planetary systems which support our existence on our small spaceship.
Utopia is a term coined by Sir Thomas More in the early 16th century. Derived from two Greek words: Eutopia (meaning 'good place') and Outopia (meaning 'no place'). Thomas More intended the irony when he wrote his genre-setting novel, Utopia . "The word now conjures up the vision of an ideal society." --Henry W.Targowski.
The word utopia is usually followed by a lot of 'shoulds,' beginning with something to the effect that "Utopia should be Humanity's guiding philosophy." Next you can often find a declaration of the abolution of religion and an almost immediate attempt to re-invent it. A well known guru was known to say " don't should on me!" But what is involved in a humane sustainable culture - and how we might get there? Our capacities to deal appropriately with ecological limits obviously requires that people will act with an awareness of and concern for the larger natural and human world around them.
Barbara Marx Hubbard has written A Personal Guide to a Positive Future which appears at a time when it is deeply needed. There is today an abundance of confusion and apprehension about the future. The questions now being asked about ourselves and the world in which we live are deep and disturbing: How will we solve the seemingly insurmountable social, economic and ecological problems we have created? Is the progress of our society towards inevitable disintegration and destruction? Is there, in fact, any chance at all of a positive, creative future?
"Barbara Marx Hubbard sets out to provide an inspirational content in which the issues underlying these questions can be faced with hope and joyful expectancy. She provides a supportive foundation for us all and offers a view of reality that touches the heart, opens the mind and inspires hope." [jacket blurb, UK pbk, 1983]
The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient lifeans sets forth the prospect that what we describe as psychological pain, could be banished by applied science much as surgical anesthetics have alleviated so much trauma.
The New Being Project is a division of The Institute for the Intensification of Non-Linear Intelligence (IINLIT) that explores the strong likelihood that our species may be headed into a rapid evolutionary jump. One of comparable impact to the momentous and sudden leap from anaerobic to aerobic bacteria, or from asexual to sexual reproduction. We may even be at a juncture where we can invent such a leap.
NBP's present task is to identify and study people who may be "edgelings"; those who might give us hints as to how to amplify or modify the direction the leap takes. One of their pages reminds us of Gautama Siddhartha's three cardinal questions: 1) Where did we come from? 2) Who are we? 3) Where are we going?
Joseph Campbell offered a hopeful new scenario. He wrote that the icon of the new Space Age Paradigm is the photograph of the earth taken by the astronauts on the moon. He felt that a paradigm sufficient to engage the hearts and minds of subsequent generations would necessarily be one that unites our entire species, perhaps even, as one among many possible extra-terrestrial species.
"Optimists estimate that there could be millions of inhabited planets in the Galaxy; pessimists estimate only one (us). Turns out main uncertainty is how long a civilization lasts before it destroys itself."
If ET does phone home and get an answer, it seems fairly likely that, if they really are all that advanced technologically, then they may be ethically and even aesthetically superior as well. If so, they may be no more disposed to socialize with us than we would a bunch of insects. Unless and untill we show some evidence of being able to treat them better than we have been treating each other, why would the want even to bother with us? Can you imagine making a very long journey to a brier patch in order to speak to an ant-hill?
After two thousand years or more of seeing ourselves as the chosen species of all God's creation, with dominion over all, suddenly our field of action has become almost infinitely larger with the advent of quantum physics and space travel. We have been thrust into a New Age, feeling quite diminished. This begs the question: will we rise to the occasion? Or, perhaps more aptly, how might we go about this?
"The traditional western approach to any problem is to break it into parts, analyze those parts, and develop solutions or improvements for those parts. It is taken as an article of faith that we can then reassemble these parts into a new and improved working whole. This approach can be quite useful in certain realms, such as when working with mechanical assemblies like machines or clocks. However, it is much less useful in other areas, such as when dealing with living beings." -Dave HigginsScience is not the only way of acquiring knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. Humans gain understanding in many other ways, such as through literature, the arts, philosophical reflection, and religious experience. Scientific knowledge may enrich aesthetic and moral perceptions, but these subjects extend beyond science's realm, which is to obtain a better understanding of the natural world.
"A purpose organizes our intelligence and makes it meaningful.
You have to take that step, and the step is actually to say to yourself, what can I do?"
- Existence - physics and metaphysics
- Cosmology - a collection of links which may be helpful or interesting
- Quantum Age - links
- Quantum Reality
- Qualia - search results
- The Conscious Mind by David Chalmers - is a stimulating, provocative and agenda-setting demolition-job on the ideology of scientific materialism.
- AstroWeb: Astronomical Internet Resources
- A Science of Civilization
- PBS: Cosmology It is not just biological evolution that poses challenges to traditional views, scientific understanding of cosmological evolution also raises issues for people of faith.
- A New Perception of Reality - by Alan Mayne - Physics has already travelled far from the simple picture of physical reality provided by classical physics a century ago.
- Cosmology - overview - the National Academies.
- The Unified Field Theory - links
- Aliens and UFO links- a Mark Space Category