The Pure Majesty of Reality
Life, the universe, and yes, everything, has an astounding majesty readily apparent to the perceptive and tough-minded observer, this majesty being more apparent still to the scientifically literate.
Well, my toughness of mind is often not what I would wish, and my observational skills frequently lacking, but the contributions I bring to the table, with what little science-literacy I have, give me a picture of the world that in spite of its tragedies transfixes me in an awe bordering on terror, and sometimes almost brings tears to my eyes, as when noting the interplay of physical forces in my surroundings when walking on the beach or when looking at the stars at night through a telescope.
The things I see, hidden from mundane sight, yet seen with the mind’s eye through science, bring to mind the phrase much loved of some believers, “none are so blind as he who will not see,” but ironically this cuts both ways, and a good rejoinder to this would be “and none are so blinkered as he who sees what is not truly there to be seen.”
But the things I see with the mind’s eye are even better than the imaginary things seen through wishful thinking, for the things of science are real, and knowably so, for these things, as impossible as they are for mere human senses to make out — atoms; microbes; the molecule of heredity, DNA; the neurotransmitters being exchanged across the synapses of my brain as I type this; black holes; dark matter; dark energy; as familiar but invisible as gravity itself; the vast 100 billion galaxy universe beyond the range of the naked eye — these things are all tied to us in more profound ways than those promised by mystical doctrines.
We are unavoidably part of a reality we can only dimly know in a limited fashion, but the more we learn the more apparent our deep connection to the universe is, to paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson, “…to each other, biologically; to the Earth, chemically; to the rest of the universe, atomically.”
The real account of our origins, from the formation of the solar system, that of the Earth, the origin of life, and the evolution of that life once formed, leading to life as we know it today, is far grander, taking billions of years and colored by both variety in speciation and extinction on an epic scale, than in any ancient writings.
I look at the universe in times when my thinking is clearest, my mind’s eye most active, and my understanding surer, and I wonder why some have a need for anything beyond reality itself, a drive to add something to the universe that doesn’t need to be added, a supernatural component of reality beyond what we can possibly know.
Why? It’s an exercise in frustration sometimes, noticing people who see so little of what’s really there and wanting to replace what they don’t even know is there with ancient narratives of mystical forces and beings…
…things that have been related endlessly in the popular culture, since the times immemorial when they were and still are told around campfires.
Things wholly of human fancy and fiction as far as can be demonstrated.
Nothing wrong with stories mind you — I love good fantasy fiction — but in terms of claims of a separate realm of reality, it all seems too much alike to me, a failure of the human imagination with the same tired concepts circulated endlessly by a credulous media to a public all too eager for more of the same.
Even seeing what little I do, I’ve no need to add anything to reality that doesn’t need to be added — new discoveries will come as we make them, real knowledge with the added bonus of real understanding, not appeals to faith, arguments from ignorance and gods-of-the-gaps.
With the good science crowded out by bad science, even antiscience, too many miss out on seeing things as they are and replace it with the ignorant ravings of mystics in hoary texts that have been edited, reedited and edited yet more over thousands of years by political opportunists seeking to control and retain control over their followers.
But the people this happens to aren’t stupid. There’s a lot of native intelligence on humans, and I get the impression that most such people have been had by those in charge of whatever tradition they’ve been raised to accept, victims of those themselves victimized by indoctrination, punctuated by the occasional cynically knowing profiteer — pseudoscience and religion are lucrative businesses in much of the world — who knows perfectly well what he’s doing, and doesn’t care.
But all the bad in the world just means more good to be done, and even if winning is impossible, so what? I want to assist people in thinking for themselves, using their own considerable brainpower to reach more sound conclusions and make better decisions, and even if I can reach only one person in my life, then my time has been well-spent in achieving something meaningful and lasting.
I think that that one person can make a difference, and that alone makes it worthwhile.