"I'm Not Convinced We Know Anything"

Everyone needs a God

Everyone needs a God

Despite my bias for science over everything that can’t be observed and tested I’m generally a very spiritual person. My mum raised me with Christian values and ensured I always went to church on Saturday. I enjoyed the Sabbath school very much. The Bible stories for children were usually the highlight of my week and something I really looked forward to. God was everything. Even though my prayers were never answered I still strongly believed in God and can’t remember one time when I tried to perceive the world without a God. I lived my life by strict biblical codes (well mostly the new testament) and by the time I was 12 I had probably read the Bible cover to cover. To me this life was just a passage to heaven where we would sing hymns, eat fruits, play with lions and spend time with Jesus forever. I worried about my friends not spending eternity with me if they were found guilty on Judgment Day. Things took a drastic turn however and my perception of life changed within a matter of hours. It was so fast it scared me to tears.

I came across one of my genius cousin’s books on biology and read about the theory of evolution – back then I used to read everything I came across. The science was interesting but I didn’t quite perceive the implications until I had a chat with my cousin. The possibility that life and everything else might have spontaneously appeared and that there may not be God made me cry for at least the next few hours. My ideal understanding of reality had been blown into little, tiny inconceivably small pieces and scattered to the ends of the universe. I felt lost and life didn’t make sense anymore. Looking back now, I think my main fear was the absence of life after death – religion’s main selling point – and that humans are nothing more than biological systems that thrive and die.

Somewhere along the way I managed to reconcile evolution, the big bang theory and religion. I even attempted to write about it. But with a deeper dive into science and further investigation of how things in the world work, especially poverty and starvation, I eventually decided that Christianity doesn’t make sense. I looked for an alternative and almost joined Islam during my first year of college. I soon noticed the patterns in most religions – an unquestionable authority, ideas accepted as fact without any evidence, a super-intelligent observer, answers to life’s biggest questions, and life after death among other things. I gave up on it all. For a short moment I felt empty and shallow but with time I accepted myself as an atheist; for it seemed better to keep pursuing the truth than banking on an obvious lie.

I became a militant atheist, you know the daily religion basher, and started africanatheists.org where I tried to network atheists across Africa and blogged incessantly about the history of Christianity and the general evils of religion. I eventually grew tired of the negativity, stopped blogging anti-religion rhetoric and gave up the website. Life become just science and not giving a damn what other people chose to believe in. Pretty shallow you might say.

Then I met someone. Melissa Gabriel – wife to be. Melissa brought to the surface an idea, a feeling that I’ve been trying to suppress since I dismissed religion. Science says that if something cannot be proved it’s not true. Contemporary science on the other hand is something else. Every person has on at least in one occasion had a gut feeling about something. Maybe a feeling that someone was watching you and then you turned around and saw that someone was actually watching you. Maybe a feeling that something bad had happened and then you get that phone call. Maybe a feeling to take a certain route instead of the other just because and then it changes your life forever or something.

The human brain is one of the most complex things known to man, second only to the universe itself. It contains about 100 billion cells and they say that we only use 10% – the jury is still out on that but it’s an agreeable fact that we use a very small percentage at any one time. The brain has 100,000 miles of blood vessels and generally represents about 2% of total body weight. Information in the brain is processed at between 0.5 and 120 meters/sec. While awake, the brain generates about 10-23 watts, which is enough to power a light bulb. The human brain is a great wonder whose harnessing can change what it means to be human. The limits of its capacity are still a mystery to science.

At one point I watched the film The Secret and decided to put the theory into action. I must say most of it made sense but as a science freak I just had to test it. It works. In fact it worked earlier today. I told myself that I want to see a butterfly now. In less than two seconds I saw a shadow. It looked like a butterfly shadow but I looked up and didn’t see it. I looked down again and the shadow passed. I looked up real quick and there it was – a pretty, bluish white butterfly. Now since I believe in the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution one should expect that I should consider that to be a coincidence. Or the possibility of infinite parallel universes means that in some infinite universes I would be seeing a butterfly at any one time and this could be one those universes. It is also possible that I had already subconsciously seen the butterfly so it was in my neighborhood. What if my mind created it?

There is obviously a part of human existence that we are not fully aware of; a part that gives a whole new meaning to being human. Different people seek to understand that part differently. Some seek it in Christianity, others in Buddhism, others in science, others in meditation, etc. But we all have a common goal of wanting to know who we are even though some of us take paths that don’t appear rational. But who gives one the authority to decide what’s rational? It’s a tough pursuit but dismissing it altogether makes us nothing more than smart robots. The pursuit might one day give us answers to questions like who are we, does the soul exist, what’s love and more. Or maybe everyone gets the answers within their own lifetime. People chose to believe whatever they want and create their own images of God according to what they envision. As long whatever God you chose helps you create a tranquil reality and help you manifest your best then it’s the right God for you. No one can judge. Everyone needs a God. At least just so to be human.

How Stuff Works – Science

I recently had a conversation with a friend about science and religion. At some point of the conversation we were talking about the sun and I mentioned a few facts about the sun like it’s distance to us – 150 million kilometers, it’s mass 1.9891 *10^30KG and its surface temperature about 6000K. Memorizing astronomical figure is a hobby I picked up while in high school. The amount of fun is of astronomical proportions :)

 

Now my friend was quick to point out that no one has ever gone to the sun and thus knowing such things is impossible. That no one has ever used gone and placed a thermometer on the sun’s surface so knowing the temperature is impossible. And that it would be impossible to build let alone use a weighing scale to measure the sun’s mass. He insisted that scientists especially physicists just guess figures like that to achieve fame. Despite his minimal knowledge in astronomy, my oblivious friend was right about the fact that we haven’t landed on the sun yet. However, his traditional understanding of how stuff works limits his ability to perceive the wonders of science beyond photosynthesis and rain cycles.

 

Before the ruler was invented we used things like the length of our feet to measure distance. With more innovation and our evolving ways of thinking we have come up with even more sophisticated and accurate ways of measuring distance. A trip to the sun is no longer necessary just to know how long it is from over here to over there. We no longer need a thermometer to know its temperature or a weighing scale to know its mass. Instead we need just the right equations and a number cruncher.

 

Physics opens up the mind to a world of new possibilities. It changes our understanding of the universe and morphs the way we perceive reality. Isaac Newton’s laws of gravitation published in his epic Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica was probably the biggest scientific breakthrough of his time. It gave us a good description of planetary motion. But come Einstein the very definition of gravity changed from the pull between two bodies to the curvature of the space time continuum. Einstein looked at scientists in the eyes and said that the most celebrated scientist of all time was wrong. (Egoistic bastard :) Anyway,…) And while it’s only natural that most people would be skeptical at first, his theories of relativity became slowly accepted into mainstream science because the math was right. But Newton’s laws still remain practical in normal scenarios when dealing with low energy states. However for better accuracy and in extreme conditions Einstein’s more complicated equations have to be adopted. Even so, no one can say for certain that Einstein’s equations are absolutely right. As Stephen Hawking says in his book A Brief History of Time

“Any physical theory is only provisional in

the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove

it. No matter how many times the

results of experiments agree with some theory, you can

never be sure that the next time the result will not

contradict the theory.”

The idea that scientists make guesses to gain fame is therefore preposterous. It’s true that some scientists make publications without doing enough research or without conclusive results just to make headlines. But the 15 minutes only goes for 15 minutes since other scientists around the world try to repeat the experiments to confirm or disprove the theory. The case of Hwang Woo-suk the South Korean scientist who claimed in 2005 that he had created human stem-cells using cloned embryos from spinal cord injured patients is a good example. His supposed findings were published in scientific journals but it was soon found out that he had fabricated his experiments. Coming up with ideas that have to be accepted at face value has no place in science. It is more a reserve of religion; where nothing can be questioned. Science is all questions, and provisional answers.