Big Bangs and HeroesTWO SELECTIONS FROM THIS CHAPTER.
From Beginning to End or Continual RecurrenceThe Christian religion, of European culture, is a religion of salvation, of a single journey from birth to Heaven or Hell. A journey each and every individual makes, and a journey that humanity makes. It is a religion of a Beginning, of creation or of birth, a development in life to find salvation, and an End, of eternal bliss or damnation, of Apocalypse.
Given this way of modeling realities, the speculation of interest is about what end the Universe faces. Continual expansion for ever, or a reversal and contraction? Without an end, the theory is seen as incomplete. A steady state Universe, on the other hand, is very much a marginalised theory. Why? Well it is contrary to the thought forms of European culture.
The Big Bang theory is a product of European culture. At one level, this is merely a truism statement. However, it is a relationship well worth looking at, accepting the complexities of issues concerning the basis of knowledge.
One difficulty – one problematic feedback loop – is the causal relationship ‘rule’ of European thought. Interactions are explained through a sequence of cause and effect. There is a (more) primary entity that is the ‘first’ cause, from which follows a progressive unfolding of effects, through a chain of cause and effect. This way of simplifying reality, of explaining interactions, can be misleading, and unduly mis-represent the complexity of reality, giving rise to a tendency to overlook the many feedback interdependencies.
The suppositions that underlie a description of reality, the assumptions made, the cultural approach that conditions human thought, tend to be passed over, without any, or very meagre, recognition. Let’s, at least for a few moments, give these basic assumptions some thought!
To do this, let’s try to conceptualise what a cosmology derived from a Hindu based Indian culture might look like. Firstly, it is a culture that better recognises its own conditioning, and the inherent difficulties of human perception and knowledge, the layers of illusions. The interconnectedness of observation, and the circularity of evidence, that is so apparent in cosmology, would not be so strange.
The outlook of the Hindu religion, which is so different from Christianity, is one of rebirth, of eternal recurrence. Any explosion of energy would then be conceptualised as a rebirth, rather than a first birth, a first cause start. It would be a new Age, where the heavy, old and corrupted matter of the previous Age, would be renewed and re-constituted as pure energy.
The Big Bang would be an explosive rebirth, a reformulation of the Universe.
Humble SciencesIn a more participatory society, where knowledge was seen to arise from a participation in the world, and in a collaboratory way and with meaningful engagement, scientists would not be so arrogant. The interdependence of all knowledge, and of all interaction in the world would be given due recognition. And if there was an appreciation of other cultures, and celebration of cultural difference, then Science might develop in a more fruitful way, and with less personal and social rancour. Alternative theories being developed side by side would be the norm.
Scientists are not involved in an heroic struggle to find the absolute truth, rather they have a social role to play in developing and sharing around our knowledge of the world we live in. Science is a human construction, a diverse set of theories or models of reality to assist in our understanding of, and interaction within this world.
Some theories are simpler and more helpful than others. Some are more culture bound, and dependent on our basic beliefs. All should be treated as artifacts of thought, and subject to change, not just because of fresh evidence about the nature of specific experiences, but also because attitudes and beliefs change.
As our society changes, and the requirements of life change, then so should our Science.
If we are to maintain a sophisticated civilisation, that has a high level of technology, and that provides a humane and caring environment for people, there will have to be a social transformation affecting all aspects of our lives. This will require a change in those attitudes and belief that underpin our lives, and direct our behaviour. We will have to see the world in a different way. For values, attitudes, beliefs and knowledge all go together, and they condition and maintain a particular way of acting in the world.
A different society, of a sustainable technological civilisation, will involve different thought patterns, and thus different patterns of behaviour.
Thinking about different cosmological theories, and why we might hold them, is one step on this path.