Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Let's Get Small

No, I am not referring to the 1970s comedy routine by Steve Martin. This blog is about how we humans perceive ourselves in the universe. Who are we? How are we different from the other life forms on this planet (or other life forms in the universe)? What is our function in this world and what is the purpose of life?

It was so much simpler when we could think that our planet was at the centre of the universe, or even the centre of our solar system. But we no longer have that luxury. Observation of planetary bodies and the invention of the telescope mean that there is no turning back. Compared to the known universe, we are small.

This sort of reasoning leads many to question previously satisfying answers. A generation or two ago it was almost always assumed that behind all of the questions was a God who knew the answers and a God who cared about humankind as his crowning creation. That is certainly no longer the starting point of such conversations nor is it the common conclusion.

As we look at a diagram such as the one noted above, it is easy to see that we have come a long way in our understanding of the world in which we live. Perhaps the realm in which we continue to struggle is best represented by the word "why." Not "how" do things work. We have much knowledge and plenty of experiments to do to search for explanations about the workings of our bodies and of our universe. The real interesting questions are still out there. Why does the universe exist? Why does all of that "extra" space in our universe exist? Why do humans exist? Science and theology both seek to answer these ultimate questions of life and there is no necessary conflict between the answers provided by each discipline.

"Why" questions (or purpose questions) are often beyond the scope of scientific naturalism and experimentation . Lesslie Newbigin has said that "cause is something that can be discovered by observation and reason. Purpose is not available for inspection because, until the purpose has been realized, it is hidden in the mind of the one whose purpose it is." Who is behind the universe and why are we here are some of the most difficult questions which humans now face. The work to unravel these answers will require more effort than the largest scientific experiments of our time. And this work will take an eternity. It will require the work of our brightest minds and the collective effort of many people on the planet. Want to join in the conversation?



Click on the picture for a larger image or go here for the original source.

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