Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Muck Knows

When the mind becomes preoccupied with deeply held convictions, anything that supports that conviction gets filtered in... and everything else gets filtered out.

The mind has its own mechanisms for judging the validity of exterior input. But sometimes these mechanisms competitively trip over themselves, becoming mired in metaphor. This type of reasoning happens everywhere, even in science (just ask Percival Lowell), but it is comparatively strong in religion.

The faithful are especially prone to placing the solution not at the end of the equation where it belongs, but at the beginning. For them, answers always precede questions. They first declare god exists, and second look for evidence of the same... if at all. For them variables are a matter of opinion. Only the foregone conclusion matters.

But the universe does not care what we want of it. It just is. We must guard against projecting our desires and wishes upon it, because by doing so we run the risk of getting it all wrong. The universe is so vast and so old that to personify it with ones pre-technical, metaphorical, origin myth is to dishonor the physicality of it. There is far more power in the real than in our dearest illusions. Those feelings of happiness for a beautiful day come from within, not from without. Good and bad things happen, but only as affect, not as judgment.

Knowledge flows up from the muck, not down from on high. We know what we know because we earned it. Not because it was whispered in our ears by angels. We earned what we know individually and collectively. Before us came our human ancestors, then our primate ancestors, then shrews, lizards, amphibians, fish, plants, muck, chemicals, atoms... and finally the raw pure energy of the big bang.

The complexity of our lives was payed for first by the interaction of material forces in nature, then by the sweat and pain of living things, and finally by experiment and the scientific method. Everything given to us individually was payed for by someone or something that came before us. Each generation was built upon the accumulated wisdom and information content of that which preceded it.

Science has reduced religion to a kind of 'insert god here' proposition whenever the remaining faithful are confronted with a scientific mystery. And since science has effectively pushed that insertion point back to the beginning of the universe, the only remaining place a believer can put god is behind the big bang itself.

But even now scientists are generating models that reach beyond the singularity at the beginning of the universe. They're asking rational questions about what happened 'before,' and are finding good, honest answers. And they are doing it with tools that have a billion times the exploratory resolution than do some ancient nomadic parables.

The universe is a neutral substrate, a platform upon which our emotions can exist; a foundation only. Evolutionary theory ultimately means the god hypothesis must be abandoned. The one naturally follows the other. How we react to pleasure or pain says much more about ourselves than it does about the world, because the world is a superset of our minds. A reasonable person must concede only two categories of knowledge; things we know, and things we do not yet know.There is nothing that is unknowable.

Own the good you do. And own the bad also. Stop giving them away to a fairy tale.