Last October I wrote about the book, The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos by Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams. You can read my original post here and you can find the book’s website here. Well, I finished that book and then read, Thank God for Evolution by Michael Dowd ( his book’s website is here ). I found both books interesting, but I my purpose today is not a book review. You are all smart folks and can read the books for yourselves. But I do want to think a little more about the main themes of these books.
What I found intriguing about both books is that the authors, each in their own way, believes that as modern humans we lack a unifying belief about our place in the universe. Furthermore, this lack of a common understanding of our place and our role in the cosmos presents significant problems for us. Both books offer their own suggestions for a unifying cosmology for modern humanity.
In my October post I raised the question, “… is it possible for all of us to agree on what our place in the universe is? Can we get post modern people to all agree? Can we get post modern people to agree that we should all agree?… I’m also intrigued by the author’s claim that a new cosmology is crucial to our future. What would the outcome be if we embrace a new cosmology? What might happen if we don’t?”
I have been thinking some more about these questions. Honestly I just don’t see how there can be one unifying view about our place in the universe and its meaning. While we need to be mindful that science has not fully explained everything about the origins of the universe and life on earth, there is much we do know. The big picture “facts” are not in dispute by most of us. But the meaning…. why there is something rather than nothing?…. why are we here?…. what does our existence mean?… Is there a divine mind, maker, or organizer? I’m not sure we can reach consensus about these questions.
I find it awe inspiring to listen to a physicist talk about the Big Bang. It’s fascinating to hear a biologist speak about DNA or about vision and the development of eye. The science is incredible. But science doesn’t give meaning. Making meaning out of the cosmos might involve reflection on what science has discovered, but making meaning is simply not the task of science.
Philosophers, theologians, and regular people all strive to make sense, to give meaning to our lives and to the universe. As much as I love my Buddhist friends and my agnostic relatives and my Christian friends and relatives, I don’t see how we can all have same answer to the questions of meaning and purpose.
For people of faith, God is the one who gives meaning and purpose to all that is. For Christians, our belief in Jesus shapes our understanding of God and meaning and purpose. Our beliefs shape our understanding of who we are as human beings and why we are alive. To put it bluntly, Jesus is at best irrelevant to the atheist and he is crucial for me. I can’t figure out how to reconcile this, and it’s not that I haven’t tried. ( If someone out there has the answer- one that doesn’t turn Jesus into just another nice guy and one that doesn’t try to sneak God past the atheists as some vague cosmic consciousness- please let the rest of us know.)
So what to do? Are we doomed to argue endlessly about this? Perhaps. I don’t think we can find a single worldview, unless some of us are willing to give up our current beliefs.
Until somebody comes up with a better idea, I suggest we agree to disagree. However, just because we don’t have agreement on who, if anyone, created us and why; that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can agree on. It seems to me, much more helpful to find our areas of agreement. Not that this is all that easy either. But surely we can agree on a few things.
Things like, people should have clean water and enough to eat. People should have adequate housing. People should not live in fear for their lives and safety. Children should have an education. People should be able to have jobs that pay a living wage and that are honest and safe work.
Now I know, we can quibble, and even fight about what constitutes adequate housing and enough to eat. We can seriously disagree on how best to provide education and jobs. And the reasons I think people should have clean water and enough to eat may be different than your reasons. We can each have our worldviews. We can each honor our beliefs about meaning and purpose by what we do and how we live.
Perhaps we don’t need to have agreement about why there is something rather than nothing. Perhaps it is enough to work for the good of those we share the planet with. Perhaps if we are seriously and intentionally about the task of caring for each other and our planet, perhaps we will discover something about purpose and meaning.
Perhaps. I’d like to know, what do you think?
A Note to the Reader: This week we passed the 5000 view mark on this blog and I just want to say, Thank you. Thank you for reading and spending time here.