Ignoring a miracle
Every day of our lives we routinely ignore a miracle.
The miracle is commonplace enough—until you think about it. Here it is: we can just offhandedly turn on a radio and hear intelligible sounds come out of it; turn on a television and see moving images on it; tap-tap on a smart phone and thereby see, hear and call in sights, sounds, news and knowledge from sources around the earth. A few people here and there actually pick up radio waves through the metal fillings in their teeth—and there it is, music from afar sounding faintly, mysteriously, in one’s mouth.
We take such things for granted— in most parts of the earth they’ve become so common that our minds no longer register them as the technological miracles they are. While taking inordinate interest in the salacious and bad news that constantly arrives through them, we barely think at all about the marvelous electronic technology inside these devices—much less marvel over what they can do as did our ancestors when such manmade miracles were new upon the earth. Nor do we know how to fix them if they stop working, as our grandfathers knew how to fix broken spokes and irrigation gates.
But to the point, what is it really that we’re picking up—receiving, tapping into—when we turn on a TV, radio or smart phone? Answer: it’s invisible waves of energy, coming to us from transmitter towers—ubiquitous, inconspicuous, unnoticed—somewhere off in the distance. Such waves are everywhere—no place remains on earth where one cannot receive some kind of communicative waves that are being transmitted over the hills or up to satellites and back down to our various receivers. They’re all around you right now—even if you’re out walking in the woods or curled up with a good book—all those TV and radio and microwaves are all about you, passing through your body, you just don’t happen to see or hear them. Your receiver is not turned on.
What are these invisible waves so ubiquitously available in our daily lives? They are travelers among the vast array of ways that the great mystery we call “energy” can manifest itself across nature’s electromagnetic spectrum. They can be seen on a device called an oscilloscope where they appear in deceptive two-dimensional guise across a range from low, elongated waves to high-peaked waves packed into short frequencies. But in reality they don’t look like that at all.
In reality they’re three-dimensional—every natural manifestation of electromagnetic waves is an expanding, vibrating sphere. Think of a pebble tossed into a calm pond, causing ripples to spread visibly outward in circles across the surface as well as, unseen, hemispheres spreading out downward beneath the surface. And they are all one—energy—a unitary thing that comes in a great many faces. That electromagnetic sphere, which we incorrectly call a radio/TV “wave,” is one of the endless faces of energy. It spreads out in all directions like an expanding balloon, away from the central transmitter that originates it—north, south, east, west, up into space, down into the ground.
Physicists also call the wave a particle…because sometimes it is. They get vexed because they can never know for sure whether energy is really a particle or a wave. This little mystery has vexed scientists for a century now—because they know it’s not really little. It is a fundamentally, profoundly huge mystery, and its troubling implications reach out to vex all of science, as well as—though they don’t know it—all of the world’s religions.
The electricity that runs our homes and factories is yet another form of this thing we call “energy”—though energy as electricity (generally speaking) behaves a bit differently than does energy as waves and particles. It’s still energy, it’s all energy. And all energy seems to obey a speed limit called the speed of light. Nothing, they say, can go faster than light’s 186,000 miles per second—and who can prove whether they’re right…or wrong?
Moreover, scientists measure light in infinitesimally tiny bits called “photons,” and they speak of photons as—somehow—“the same thing as” electrons, which are components of atoms—which are also energy. Atoms and light are both energy—energy in different faces such as particles and waves. It’s all energy. Everything in existence is one form or another of energy in its nearly infinite manifestations. Does all this make sense to you?
Or do you perhaps find it just a bit mysterious—a miracle not well understood, if at all? Is your mind open to such little-noticed mysteries?
Openness of mind
In this book we will celebrate the open mind. The highest possible value is placed on the mind that is consciously held sufficiently open that it can recognize the mysteries that pervade everyday life—that is able to perceive the miracles in seemingly commonplace things such as radio waves and electricity…and in possums and beetles and coos that go about their daily business in their respective habitats, consciously intent on surviving, eating, reproducing, doing the things that are meaningful to them, just the same as we do.
The open mind notices when other minds it encounters are less than fully open. In this book we will consider that abhorrent opposite extreme, the closed mindset—the mind whose thought patterns have become so grievously un-open that it is no longer aware of realities that are obvious to minds which remain more open, the way they were born.
In this open-versus-closed context we shall give some attention to, among other things, religion and science, and to economics and politics, and to futuristic trends both pleasant and seriously unpleasant—and to good and bad options for human behavior in all these cultural contexts. These contexts well exemplify open minds and closed mindsets in ways that may surprise you. Here’s a couple of examples to open your mind to the sorts of things that will be encountered if you continue what you’re now doing.
Scientists consider themselves the epitome of the open mind. They are seekers after truth, and they work hard in their search to learn what is true and real, to understand how things really are in the natural world, not just how they seem. No good scientist takes anybody’s word as final on anything, for tomorrow’s new discovery may overturn today’s inherited knowledge, expanding or changing altogether what was previously thought to be true. Scientific “truth” can be ever changing—and necessarily must be—one might say.
Scientists don’t “believe” what they understand to be true, as handed down from scientists before them—no, belief is a term that belongs to religion. Scientists directly observe things, conduct experiments, replicate the experiments many times, and then “conclude” what seemingly appears to be true in the natural world. And they carefully define what is “natural”—effectively establishing thereby an automatic exclusion from scientific consideration of anything that can be claimed to be, or that might actually be, “super”natural (from Latin super meaning more than, above, over, outside).
According to estimates not easily made but probably in the ballpark, ninety percent of all the scientists who ever lived are alive today. They number between seven and eight million, representing about one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of the world population which currently approaches eight billion. Of these 7-to-8 million scientists, around one-fifth to one-fourth profess some sort of religious (supernatural) affinity; a large majority profess no religious belief; a small very vocal minority are proactively anti-religion.
That’s the scientists. The other 99.9 percent of humanity comprises two groups. Roughly a fifth to a fourth of non-scientists don’t hold any religious belief—either they forthrightly state their agnostic, atheist or none-of-the-above preference, or their non-belief in established religions can be inferred from their de facto lifestyle and behavior. All other humans—i.e., most of humanity—may be called “religious.” It’s a lot of people.
Roughly three fourths of the world’s human population—around 5.5 to 6 billion—believe that some kind of non-material (i.e., “supernatural,” “spiritual,” etc.) realm exists apart from this clearly, observably, material universe. Though many describe it differently, in their various ways they believe that we humans are spirits (“souls”) who will live on after our earth-bound bodies die, and they expect that our spirit/souls will then go (or return) to that aforementioned non-material spiritual realm. At least half of these billions expect that spirits may re-incarnate into newborn bodies and live multiple lifetimes on the earth.
Unlike the 0.1 percent who are scientists, this three-fourths majority of all humans don’t bother to “conclude” their ideas through rigorous scientific method. No, they simply “believe” what they accept as given truths that are passed down from parents and elders preceding them back through time immemorial, possibly clear to a god or gods. They are not seeking in the same sense as scientists seek, for they believe they already know.
It may be safely postulated that most of humanity’s religious majority accept their received beliefs without much question—and seldom have reason to consider that religious beliefs might be questioned, or that religious “truths” maybe ought to be verified. Religious beliefs just are and always have been—and who can prove whether they’re right…or wrong? Unlike science which is ever-changing, religious truth is never changing, one might say—except that it is, for religions, like everything else, keep on evolving, undeniably subject to the very evolution they so often and heatedly disavow.
Lest one or the other be thought more meritorious, let it be noted that religious believers and most scientists alike rarely take the long view of evolution. The seldom-considered long perspective would see Homo sapiens’ 300,000 years of existence as a mere twelve percent (12%) of genus Homo’s 2.5 million years upon the stage—a fraction of the time our late Neanderthal cousins enjoyed before their mysterious extinction.
Much less do religious believers or scientific concluders very often pause to note that humans have been here on the earth only eighty-six ten-thousandths of one percent (0.0086%) of elapsed time since the Cambrian Explosion spread life all over the earth. Essentially nobody ever pauses to consider that the conscious, thinking human brains we so adore have been around for an inconceivably thin slice of the 13.8 billion years since the mysterious big bang mysteriously banged into existence that mysterious multi-manifest “stuff” we call “energy,” with all its component waves and particles which then evolved—somehow—into our familiar universe of ever-evolving galaxies and stars, planets and moons that we know and love today. Let there be light.
All major world religions assume that (some version of) an eternal spirit is reality, but they cannot verify it the way science verifies its findings. They just believe it on faith, assuming it to be true that soul-spirit exists because that’s what they’ve been told. In contra-distinction, a majority of scientists assume there is no such thing as spirit—but the fact is they too cannot verify their faith-like assumption of its absence any more than believers can verify its presence. They just dis-believe it on faith, based on their assumption that unobservable soul-spirit cannot possibly exist for the very scientifically acceptable reason that it cannot possibly exist. Neither scientists nor religionists, both of whom put forth a lot of faith-based folderol, can refute the truth of this brief paragraph.
There’s an old saying that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In this context science assumes there cannot be such a thing as “evidence” for the non-material concept called spirit, and then willfully ignores a ton of evidence to the contrary. Religion, self-content with its faith and its dogma, does quite the same and has no interest in evidence which might contradict its dogma. Science defines evidence to suit itself, then ignores and excludes anything inconsistent with its definition. This is a non-issue to religionists whose faith is unconcerned with the presence or absence of evidence as to what is real.
Science can and does quite well demonstrate the reality of evolution, whereas religions are a house divided—some believers reconcile their faith-based beliefs with fact-based evolution, others seem congenitally, fundamentally, unable to do so. With many believers denouncing evolution and many scientists denouncing faith, mostly they just talk past each other while with little to no interest in seeking a common ground of understanding.
The closed mindsets abundantly found in both religion and science are, respectively, closed foremost against each other. Both seem unaware that their closure is harmful to all the rest of us. Notwithstanding their opinions to the contrary, both houses are home to multitudes of mindsets so closed in willful blindness that they cannot see, or even deign to notice, an absolute mountain of evidence indicating that they’re both partly right…and that both are substantially wrong. In their wrong certainty, neither establishment seems aware that they’re both missing what is called, in a court of law, “the whole truth.”
We are particularly interested here in learning more about this evidence, and it will be duly detailed along with related matters in subsequent chapters. By and large I will not spend much time re-arguing matters about which opposing viewpoints have long been well laid out in numerous widely-read books and articles both popular and scholarly. My focus is a broader context not often encountered on popular reading lists.
A Suggested Reading list at the end of this book cites a good sampling of the many books that have influenced my thinking about that broader context as presented in this writing. They contain the considered ideas of many leading thinkers in physics, cosmology, astronomy, biology, anthropology, theology, and the history of science and religions, with special emphasis on early Christianity’s evolution and subsequent conquest of Europe and the Americas. I recommend them unreservedly in certainty that the ideas they present will enhance the thinking of all who read them.
One last point by way of introduction: Contents of autobiographical nuance will be incorporated at intervals as this writing unfolds. This is not because of any exaggerated notion about the worth of my personal story. Rather—I must explain with proper humility—it reflects cause and effect. As explained in this book, the uniquely broad context which constructed itself in my mind over recent decades, is an effect that was caused by—in addition to my extensive readings—a lifelong series of personal experiences so extraordinary they strain interpretation as coincidence.
These are experiences of the first-person kind that science refuses to acknowledge and religions cannot acknowledge because of their own exclusionary dogma, doctrines and ideologies, respectively. In significant ways, both science and religion have painted themselves into opposite ideological corners—the epitome of closed mindsets.
I favor ideals over ideologies. And for excellent rational reasons, I long ago concluded that neither science nor religion can, as presently constituted, be responsive to the basic, simple questions that really matter for modern humanity’s inner growth and betterment upward—to a higher plane, above all that now ails and degrades us. A pox on both their houses—in our troubled modern world, seriously threatened by environmental chaos and civilizational collapse, more widely open minds are desperately needed.
Many years ago I developed a habit of always looking for the third option. I find it helpful. I hope you will enjoy considering the new options presented in what follows.
– to be continued in one week –