expressed it best when he stated that his "best friend is truth." If a
time comes when mankind must choose between an accepted belief or a
scientifically proven "truth," then anyone who seeks "progress" must
choose the "truth."
There is, then, a great dichotomy. On the one side is history, stability, and pleasant acceptance of what we have allegedly always known, even though any expanded view would clearly show that mankind has always progressed in his knowledge of the "truth" in spite of the occasional setbacks. On the other side is the disruption caused by anything viewed as "progress."
But "progress" is really just greater understanding of a truth which has always existed from the beginning of time. The laws of Newton and Kepler were not created by these great men, but only discovered by them. In fact, the planets moved according to these laws for as long as the planets have existed. And furthermore, the laws clearly will apply to all other astronomical bodies which have ever existed or which ever will exist in our universe. If there was a "hand of God" which set the universe into motion, that hand acted long ago, and acts no more. The laws of the universe (at least presently) appear to be unchanging and unalterable. It is only for mankind to perhaps perform a service to the Cosmos by correctly describing those laws to the best of our own ability. In doing so, we give meaning and understanding to our own lives, and to the lives of our descendants.
mankind understood so little of what we see in our skies that we were
forced to turn this area of knowledge over to the mystics. As we have
seen, the scientific revolution which accompanied the Renaissance freed
Cosmology from the dictates of the church and turned it over to
scientists who would use the great tools of scientific method to seek
for our best friend, Truth.
As Carl Sagan has noted, what we then found was a series of answers which we find astonishing. There is clearly a complexity to the universe; but there is also a clear and seemingly simple relationship among all of the known bodies in our universe. As time goes by, scientists are increasingly satisfied with the essential correctness of the idea that our present universe was created thirteen to fifteen billion years ago80 in what we have come to call the "Big Bang." Using a combination of astronomical observations and the calculation skills of modern computers, scientists have more or less proven that every body we can presently see, including our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, and our "local group,"81 is seemingly rushing away from a common point of origin.
The current "great debate" in cosmology is the question of the so-called "missing matter" which one of the currently popular theories predicts must be there. If it is found, then scientists currently believe that, through the force of universal gravitation, all bodies presently receding from the common center will eventually slow down, come to rest, and begin returning to the Origin. If the missing matter is not there to be found some day, then there will not be enough gravitational force to slow down the expanding universe of bodies emanating from the "Big Bang," and thus all of the known galaxies are presently moving at something greater than the universal "escape velocity," meaning that the long ongoing universal expansion will continue for eternity. So, while the "Big Bang" provides a clear and singular event to which rational but religious creationists can adhere, there are at least two possible end states to which the universe might be destined: collapse back to the point of origin; or eternal expansion.
no way should any disagreement about the end state of our known
universe impact the fundamental nature of the philosophical principles
which should govern all of mankind. Humanity is distinguished from the
other animals primarily by what we do with our minds. Any long view of
human history clearly shows that the main quest of mankind has been the
quest for "Truth," which can be expressed as an accurate representation
of universal knowledge. To the extent which mankind has found anything
describable as "progress," such "progress" is really only a
representation or expression of the underlying universal "Truth" long
sought by mankind.
The above principles apply regardless of the specific area of scientific inquiry. If there is anything which we should inherit from our forebears, it is a passion for seeking "Truth." That passion was as true for Aristotle as it was for Newton. Only differences in their technology and the beliefs of their predecessors kept them from finding the exact same "Truth." Only when mankind is willing to discard long held (but erroneous) beliefs can mankind truly achieve "progress." Thus, it is the unwillingness of Christianity to return to its allegorical roots which prevented any advances in science for many centuries, a plea of Galileo which the church saw much reason to ignore.
History clearly proves that we can brainwash ourselves into ignoring pursuit of the "Truth." If the destiny of mankind is to once again stagnate in our pursuit of "Truth," it will occur only because mankind allows it. Perhaps there is a limit to how much "Truth" mankind can absorb before we reach some inner psychological limit imposed by our childhood education. Perhaps approaching this limit generates the forces which seek to slow, or even reverse, the quest for further "Truth." We certainly see such forces in the here and now of our own time, manifestly in the so-called Christian "Right." But merely suppressing the quest for "Truth" does not alter it. The laws of Nature were operative in full from at least the first moment that our universe was created by the "Big Bang." "Truth" is the one great imperative of our existence, and we should not ignore our quest for it.
Civilization began life as most civilizations do, with a mystical view
of the universe and the place of mankind in it. Spengler called that
mystical view a "birth of a myth of the grand style, expressing a new
god-feeling. World-fear. World-longing."82
The myth for Western Civilization was epitomized by early Christianity,
with legends of the various saints playing roughly the same role in
Western Civilization as do the myths of the Greek gods in Classical
In the early days of any known civilization, the "rural-intuitive" foundations of our spiritual longings crystallize into a unifying mythology which then binds together the people of the new civilization. There is no rational basis for any mythology. The purpose of any mythology is to offer an explanation for the universe and the place of mankind in the universe in the absence of knowledge. The awakening cultural "soul" takes what little technical information is available and, based upon this totally inadequate knowledge of the "Truth," paints a satisfying picture which fulfills our longing for this missing spiritual feeling of "belonging here."
For Western Civilization, the inputs to the process were the writings of the great Greek philosophers, particularly Aristotle and Plato, and the Christian Bible. Out of those sources, people like Francis of Assisi wove a world view which we still adhere to today. No matter how much we might come to know that the views espoused by Saint Francis are erroneous, we still admire the man for what he was.
But one natural consequence of any civilization is that its geniuses perform their scholarship, causing demystification of the world view. The Earth is no longer cradled in the hand of God (who might at any time decide to shake things up with one of his famous "acts of God"), but follows its path around the Sun based upon unalterable physical laws which have existed since the beginning of time. This is the danger which any truly great thinker poses to any entrenched mythology: a logical proof that mythology is wrong.
Thus, our split personality arises from our simultaneous existence as intellectual descendants of both Francis of Assisi and Sir Isaac Newton, not to mention many others similar to those two. The former represents a mystical world-view based totally upon faith, particularly a faith in Christianity. The latter represents a scientific world-view based totally upon a rigorous search for "Truth." From our earliest days as children, our parents and teachers try to instill both world views into our minds. Even though we might not know why, we rebel at this.
Our rebellion can take us in one of two directions: a renunciation of science, and everything which science stands for, expressed as a return to the "fundamentals" of our Christian beliefs; or a renunciation of religion, which leads us to a mechanistic view of our world, a lack of moral foundation, and an unfulfilled spiritual need. I rebel at this.
Mankind cannot deny either our spiritual or scientific foundations without losing our civilization. Neither of the two alternatives which confront us is a true solution to the problem posed by our souls: a need for reconciling our spiritual and intellectual roots. We must find a way to be true to those roots through adopting a willingness to declare superfluous portions to be erroneous. But we must also avoid discarding essential portions of our composition in order to have a remainder of which we can easily make sense. The two choices offered above are each examples of this latter error. What we need is yet another choice. A choice which expresses that which makes us what we are, but which does not try to force us to be that which we are not.
One essential motivation for this book is my own personal search for this other alternative. Whether or not this book gets published for the masses to read, there is no doubt in my mind that it will at least get written in order to satisfy this yearning from the depths of my own soul. Only an untimely death can prevent its completion, and I have no reason to believe that such a death will occur.
The essential problem must lie in the realm of our social values, simply because we cannot argue with the physical sciences.83 Accordingly, it is time to look at those values so that we can begin to grasp which of them must be changed to accommodate our new understanding of who we are and what we are doing here.
80 Carl Sagan used the figure of fifteen billion years, but more recent newspaper articles I have read seem to suggest that the "truth" is closer to thirteen billion years. The range I express seems to encompass the idea of every possible accurate value, and all of these values are immense beyond the ability and experience of mankind to relate to such a size.
81 The "local group" is a set of roughly twenty galaxies, including our own Milky Way, which are close enough to one another and far enough from every other known galaxy to be considered as being, in some primordial way, related to one another.
82 Decline of the West (1918), Volume I, Table I, "Contemporary" Spiritual Epochs, Item I.
83 Again, any knowledge which is a product of scientific method, while it remains subject to revision based upon similarly derived "new" knowledge, cannot be dismissed "out of hand" merely because it raises questions which are inconvenient to the prevailing world-view. That is what I mean by "we cannot argue with the physical sciences."
Please send us your feedback!