A Bottom-Up Universe

From Chris Hallquist I find out that Patheos has a challenge for us:

For March/April, participate in the “Why I am a…” Blogger Challenge! We invite all of our contributors to respond to the challenge by contributing with a response on why they are committed to their faith group in 200 words or less.

From Hemant I learn that it’s “A Week” and from Leah I learn that it should go farther.

Why doesn’t someone warn me about these things before I’m in the middle of them?

Anyway, I thought I’d take a stab and combining all this into one answer without duplicating Chris’ answer. Here’s my attempt:

I believe in a bottom-up universe.

I believe in a universe where magnificent stars come from clouds of gas, where planets come from chunks of rock and where living systems come from chemical reactions.

I believe that the most interesting thing about the universe is not where it came from, but by the way that it continues to organize itself.

I believe that a bunch of East African plains apes have climbed their way up to intelligence and what we call “society” emerged as a result. They are now stuck with the question of how to sustain it.

I believe that history arises out of background forces that are generated by the actions and ideas of the millions of people involved.

I believe that our brains have are wired to look for top-down answers, but I am suspicious of those answers.

I believe that we sometimes desire some kind of top-down authority to explain history, or guide society, or give the universe meaning. But the desire for answers does not mean that there are answers.

I believe in a bottom-up universe, and I’m proud of how far we’ve climbed, and frightened of how far we have to go. But it is our climb; looking for answers from above is an abdication of that responsibility.

And that is why I’m an atheist.

200 words was more confining than I’d expected. I’m over by a bit, and I still want to tweak the hell out of it. Anyway, thoughts?

  • Jim

    I like your approach. A bottom up view seems to have only one big unanswered question: Where did the universe come from? The top down view has thousands of unanswered questions with thousands of contradictory attempts to answer them: that’s why we have thousands of religion beliefs.

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • Bruce Heerssen

    I took the liberty of editing your essay because I think it’s a powerful essay, and I’d like to see you reach your two hundred word limit. So here is my edit, with exactly two hundred words:

    I believe in a bottom-up universe.
    I believe in a universe where magnificent stars come from clouds of gas, where planets come from chunks of rock, and where living systems come from chemical reactions.
    I believe the most interesting thing about the universe is not where it came from, but how it continues to organize itself.
    I believe a bunch of East African plains apes climbed their way up to intelligence and what we call “society” emerged as a result. They now grapple with the question of how to sustain it.
    I believe history arises out of background forces that are generated by the actions and ideas of millions.
    I believe that our brains are wired to look for top-down answers. I am suspicious of those answers.
    I believe that we sometimes desire some kind of authority to explain history, or guide society, or give the universe meaning, but the desire for answers does not mean they exist.
    I believe in a bottom-up universe. I’m proud of how far we’ve climbed, but frightened of how far we have to go. This is our climb; looking for answers from above is an abdication of responsibility.
    That is why I’m an atheist.

  • Little Magpie

    vorjack, I LOVE this.

  • http://onthewaytoithaca.wordpress.com EvanT

    Hmm… I would also personally replace all occurrences of “I believe (in)” with “I accept” or “I see”. The multiple definitions of “believe” aside, it’s continual use here might be counterproductive, n’est-ce pas?

  • DMG

    I really like your answer – I find it satisfying, and revealing about my own perspective.

    It neatly summarizes why I find science so compelling, why conspiracy theories get under my skin so badly, and why I delight in watching emergent behaviour unfold in complex systems like games, cellular automata, fractals, or culture.

    Thank you for sharing this! :)

  • sudon’t

    200 words or less?

    I’m an atheist because that’s what they call people who don’t believe in the supernatural.

  • http://yaburrow.googlepages.com yvonne

    Great stuff, I love it. Your “why I am an atheist” list also neatly describes why I am a Pagan. :)

    • Kulbir

      i refer u Bhagat singh hand written why i am an atheist .. good one read it

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-J-Loveless/100000216363826 Patrick J Loveless

    I like it. Nature is very cool, and there is much to be in awe of in it. :) This bottom-up view of the world is, I think, very thoughtful. Makes me think better of the world as a Catholic.

    Though I do wonder: where did the gas clouds, and ultimately the singularity from whence those gas clouds emerged, come from? It’s that question that is part of why I am a Catholic.


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