Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Progress on the Creation Front: from Myth to the Age of Reason to Cosmos

Progress can seem evolutionarily slow on the human understanding front.  Ideas can be so powerful that they live on as ostensible truth for thousands of years in spite of evidence to the contrary (or sufficient lack of evidence to warrant looking elsewhere).  Human hubris, more specifically the belief that we know a thing entirely, can slow down further the approach toward truth (knowledge and wisdom both).

In my opinion, myths and other fictions have and do serve a purpose.  In modern times fiction allows us to explore ideas creatively; similarly, our ancestors benefited from the myths they created.  At their most joyfully productive, these myths encapsulate survival information and moral wisdom in stories which entertain (joyfully and scarefully) and thus are more easily remembered and then facilely accessed and brought to bear on real life challenges.  At their worst, the myths grew into religious and political power structures that organized populaces to march under, creating a (quasi) unified ethic that endorses the slaughter of their neighbors in biblical fashion. Often in disregard of  Goodness or Truthfulness, myths succeeded in assisting the next generation of humans to succeed reproductively and territorially.

Alas, Humanity has progressed modestly beyond its mythical influenced roots (and arguably the pure need to survive as a species).  Still, myths survive within our cultural and religious traditions.  As the civilization process continues, mythical deities and economic whims continue to battle our progressive efforts at understanding the world, how it works, where its going and where it came from.  To this end, I'll make two brief stops on our ongoing journey of understanding.  The first with Thomas Paine's Age of Reason, which I read recently; and the second with Carl Sagan's and Neil Degrasse Tyson's installements of Cosmos, the latter of which I recently finished watching.

Thomas Paine's Age of Reason surprised me very much which underscores the adage to never reduce a book to its cover art or title.  Frankly, Paine's book would be more accurately titled The Age of Reason and How I Debunked the Christian Bible Using 18th Century Logic and Replaced the Corrupt God Therein with my Own Vision of a God Creator Whose Word is Written as the Cosmos Itself Yet Remains Patriarchal, Almighty and Worthy of Worship Through Enlightened Human Moral Action.  It's not surprising that Paine's work influenced Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, particularly in making the leap that human rights are self evident.  Nevertheless, although I found Paine's ideas historically interesting, it felt like he was in love with his own Deistic preconceptions to the point he failed to see the flaws in his own anthropomorphic god visions.

Fast forward and we see how science in the past three hundred years has unraveled much on the physical truth front as the installments of the ongoing Cosmos TV Saga demonstrate.  Carl Sagan and Neil Degrasse Tyson arguably have been the most prominent spokespersons (salespersons?) for scientific awe in the last fifty years.  The Cosmos series both presented a chronology of scientific discovery and invention, and informed the era of engineering marvel where scientific applications dazzle us daily, not to mention have solved countless challenges indifferent Nature has set before us.  Such developments have spurred on such economic prosperity (on average) across the world that we often forget what an awesome world lies beneath.  The most recent Cosmos series successfully implements computer generated and artistic animation alongside thoughtful narrative to help us remember the amazing progress we have made in understanding the physical world.  Additionally, the series as a whole indicates how being better informed of the physical world enables us to implement the moral ideals we set for ourselves.

Peeking Beyond the Observable Universe?
Progress toward the future unfolds at the same rate it always has, one second at a time.  In ancient times, the human species creatively confronted the mysteries of the universe by inventing mythological and fantastical hypotheses of how the world works and how it began.  Moving past the kings that leveraged mythical god decrees from birth, the likes of Thomas Paine inspired us to flush the biblical baggage and replace it with iterative, improved idealism, idealism which ironically clung to first cause imaginings connected to an Almighty Powerful (usually Male) Designer of Physical and Moral Truth.  In this modern day, progress continues as humans further wield integrity alongside seasoned techniques of seeking and finding truth, leaving pat myth-based answers behind .  Together we step forward with daring
aplomb, looking inward, and outward, forward and backward, and yes, even prior to the Big Bang moment, while declaring with deep a joyful honesty "we don't know"......"yet!"

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