An outpouring of sweat, a fiery explosion of neurons, a watery surge of our eyes — all ways in which we each forge the necessity of our inimitable existence in this world. Our individual energy is the force that validates our existence both in theory and practice. If the Descartesian principle of “I think, therefore I am,” is in fact a truism and not a theory, what are the concrete implications therein? Are thoughts energy?
Most physicists would have to argue that they must be, for without the electrically energized impulses that are the foundational elements of human thought, how could we function? It has been proven that the neurological function of all living organisms is contingent upon the presence of electrical impulse. This impulse, this impetus, is perhaps the most essential component to the understanding of life on our planet.
In the multi-dimensional world of quantum mechanics, the only absolute certainty within a given space and time is the existence of energy. According to the most complex theoretical models of our “reality,” the only way to distinguish real from unreal or even sur-real is to identify the governing energies of a given space-time. With eleven theoretical dimensions of reality, and quantum physicists expounding on our potential presence within several worlds of differing causes and effects, what holds us to anything concrete at all?
There are the examples of Schroedinger’s cat and the Grandfather Paradox. In the prior hypothetical situation, a cat is both alive and dead simultaneously, depending upon the reaction of a chemical to the presence of a photon as either a particle or a wave. The photon slit experiment remains a complete mystery to science as we know it, as photons can act as both particles and waves under conditions that remain unchanged. In the latter situation, which challenges the nonlocalized time component of quantum reality, it can not be possible that a version of myself may have existed in the same time as my grandfather, for then it would become possible for me to have murdered my own link to the present. One could make the same argument of the Grandmother Paradox, but since science (as in Western religious traditions) is generally patriarchal in its historical tradition, it is known only as the Grandfather paradox.
Trudging out of this heady labyrinth of possibility, I ponder those people without the desire to understand such possibilities at all. To assume the role of Skeptic’s Advocate for a moment, let us call the universe a fully understood entity wherein all of the current knowledge of science is the law. There is no such thing as meaning, other than that concept of assigning a specific symbol, sound, or grouping of a particular purpose and efficiently translating that purpose externally. Nothing is implicit; everything is explicit and capable of being subdivided into more precise parts. No “Creator,” so no “Createe” — we are walking examples of a series of beneficial, accidental evolutionary mutations that have given us all of our capabilities and left all of our less fortunate counterpart species powerless in the chain of intelligent existence.
We are lucky to dominate, lucky to have extended juvenile periods affording us the earth’s savviest brains. We live, we learn, we work, we die, we vanish traceless. In this arguably dystopic view, the proclaimed Atheist lives most happily, secure in the knowledge that the now is to be cherished — well, maybe cherished is too meaningful a word — the now is to be enjoyed, for there is no promise of tomorrow. There are now rainbow treatises with the divine securing our existence, no covenants with prophets, nor anthropomorphic deities to confirm our reasons for faith. Life is fleeting, and more than fleeting it is a simple act of selfishness. We are not supposed to be alive, because we are not supposed to be anything at all. And yet we can not claim that we are here for any reason, so what governs our lives?
One professor provided me the perspective that there are no such things as “Atheists,” because everyone has a God. If to you, God means divinity and you are assured that divinity is equal to delusion, your God will be family ties, or money, or security, or perhaps sex. No human being functions without a “God” — because God is synonymous with Creation, and human beings are innately driven to create from the day of birth. But this is not God, says the Atheist. The desire to accumulate wealth, or security, or goods, or talents are not divine at all — they are simply manifestations of human selfishness and consumption. If there is one thing Atheism as a practice, for it is a practice, condones — it is selfishness. There is no purpose to our lives, so acts of kindness or love, whatever chemicals create those illusions in our brains, are easily transparent acts of reflexive good-will. By doing unto others as I would want others to do unto me, I am securing my own safety and enjoyment in the possible event of my own misfortune.
To dive deeper, by doing unto others as I would desire other-others to see me doing unto them, I am both raising my stature in society and inflating my ego to whatever point I feel the most beneficial to my current position in life. Even the most stalwart Atheist can not believe this way, for it would mean the destruction of goodness and the open admission that they are “not-nice” people. Or perhaps they have no issue with being perceived as fundamentally selfish, so they must outwardly perform enough deeds of good will to symbolically outbalance the level of selfishness they would be satiating.
Then there is the quandary: What if all of the laws governing our planet have already been discovered, and it is now a mere question of fine-tuning our methods of observation?
Both scientists and clergymen can agree on this without violating any firmly rooted values imperative to their respective causes. How can the Divine exist within the realm of scientific law? Easily. How can evolution and creationism be reconciled in the same set of values and beliefs? Easily.
It is safe to say that evolution has reached the level beyond theory to universally accepted truth, given the astounding array of evidence throughout our planet from geology to plant life to animal life. It has even been concluded that our genetics can be linked to both fish and primates in many ways, as easily as comparing the three with the naked eye in their developing embryonic stages. The key to evolution is recognizing the difference between the previous Lemarckian conception and the accepted Darwinian conception of its mechanics. Lemarck’s position that evolution occurred as a development of a beneficial trait to be later acquired by offspring seems ludicrous today in light of genetic understanding. However, this position would also have made it much simpler to take the Divine out of the scientific equation. It was a logical belief that this enactment of evolution would explain WHY evolution occurred. As common sense would have suggested, evolution was a pragmatic response to a shifting environmental situation. The tree is growing taller, so the neck or snout must enlarge to enable sustenance.
Unfortunately, because this theory was later disproved in favor of the Darwinian understanding of evolution, the argument changed. An organism undergoes an unforeseen, unexpected mutation rendering an outlier phenotype, potentially beneficial or detrimental. The consequence of the mutation is to be the work of natural selection, which will ultimately keep or reject, sustain or disregard the organism with the altered physicality or the alteration itself. There have inevitably been trillions upon trillions of mutations throughout time, many of which were not selected and are presently unknown because the environment was essentially ignorant to the existence of them. Perhaps there was a bird born with three beaks, but it neither ate more nor less than birds with only one beak — so its progeny did not lead to an ultimate evolution. Perhaps some human was born with incredible abilities of intuition a million years ago, but this skill did not aid its survival any more than its fellow mammoth hunters at the time and its skill went unnoticed. Evolution is now properly explained mechanically, but has no cause associated with it. There is no reason WHY evolution occurred and continues to occur, because there is no reason WHY a mutation occurs. It is simply an accident, like the Atheist’s reason for being alive. An accident, a happy coincidence, a lucky break.
One perspective I’ve heard multiple times is that with belief in something divine comes a potential sense of entitlement. If a child is born wealthy and grows into a financially successful adult, she must believe (if she is not Atheist) that she has been ordained by God to be so blessed. How many of us in life spend every positive moment thanking God for our good fortune and ability to appreciate it? But to get back to our proverbial wealthy girl, wouldn’t she see the less fortunate as being condemned by the same God that has shown her grace? Is this not the common paradox of religious belief? Why does God allow bad things to happen to non-bad people? If God exists, God must believe some are to be blessed and others are to be cursed.
This begs a moral question: Is it better to believe in a God who would “allow” supposedly negative things to occur, or is it better not to believe at all?
At the core of human faith is the certainty that we are not able to comprehend the cause and effect of the universe, for if we were, the entire world would be under our control. Human beings are forced to recognize a lack of control which renders us powerless to the Divine, the impetus that shines on one entity to cast a shadow on another. A cornerstone of this ideology is the concept of the greater good or Divine understanding. If we accept the dominance of the universe over us, we thus accept our place in the universal order.
Refusal to accept powerlessness is at the center of the disbeliever’s consciousness. What empowers the faithful destroys the faithless. What appears ironic is that those who seek control over themselves and others are both the most devoutly “religious” and the most staunchly “atheist.” Neither is beneficial, because both lose sight of the strongest component of faith — human beings do not have control over any aspect of the universe.
This inability to surrender ourselves to the higher power has contributed to all of the greatest conflicts on Earth. In losing sight of this concept, we destroy, we subjugate, we debase, and we eradicate the sacred. It is only in the true understanding of the sacred that our energy will be well utilized.
Where does this leave us? Powerless? Victims? Meaningless?
The “atheist” believes so, and in the face of such a terrible fate, turns his back on the universe and holds sacred only those things directly observable, controllable, and superficial in the scheme of the universe. No faith means no progress and the continued destruction of the world. This includes those irreligious fundamentalists who use the Divine in vain to control others, thereby set to destroy them.
Of course it was by the actions of the faithful that the majority of contributions to the world were made in science and philosophy. These human beings did their work with a constant awareness of their place, the sacredness of their physical inquiry ever-present.
Sacred is relative to the individual, but its power should be understood as the endowment of Divine energy. By holding life sacred, we recognize the true contribution of which we are capable, because we accept our incapacity. We are of the universe, not of ourselves, which frees us to more thoroughly explore the mystical within our minds, within our bodies, within our souls.
This shift has yet to extend throughout the world, as human beings are still dominated by self-importance and aggrandizement. Given the selfish ideology exercising global hegemony on popular culture, the continuation of poverty, war, and destruction is not at all surprising. The truly faithful have yet to emerge, to engage in the soul-searching necessary to evolve our species out of the muck.