“Life is meaningless.  Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Life is meaningless.  Isn’t it beautiful?” February 9, 2022

 

The San Gabriels, with Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.  Making our approach to Los Angeles International Airport last night, we flew from right to left (in terms of this photograph) right over the U. S. Bank Building (which was the tallest structure in the city when this Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph was taken).  I had been confused a bit, coming in at night, and was trying to figure out where we were.  But then I recognized its cylindrical top.

 

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On the flight yesterday, I watched the three-part Hulu series McCartney 3, 2, 1, which I really, really enjoyed.  The Beatles were, in my judgment, unambiguously the greatest rock band in history.  By light years.

 

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I’m still slowly going through past blog entries in order to extract things from them that I want to use in future (non-blog) writing.  I’m roughly half-way through a first quick pass.  Here are three quotations that I thought some readers might find interesting.

 

The first two of them come from Douglas Axe, about whom I found the following current online biographical sketch:  “Douglas Axe is the Maxwell Professor of Molecular Biology at Biola University, the founding Director of Biologic Institute, the founding Editor of BIO-Complexity, and the author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. After completing his PhD at Caltech, he held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge Medical Research Council Centre. His research, which examines the functional and structural constraints on the evolution of proteins and protein systems, has been featured in many scientific journals, including the Journal of Molecular Biology, the Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesBIO-Complexity, and Nature, and in such books as Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer and Life’s Solution by Simon Conway Morris.”

 

“I’m reminded of the [Richard] Dawkins-sponsored ads that appeared on the sides of London buses, declaring in bright colors, ‘There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’  Interesting logic.  You are a meaningless by-product of the circulating ooze in some ancient pond, soon to return to the dead chemicals that burped your ancestors out, sooo . . . go enjoy your life. . . .  Life is meaningless.  Isn’t it beautiful?”

Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed (New York: HarperOne, 2016), 263, 264.

 

“Perhaps this tendency to idolize the legends of science is connected to a skewed view of the whole scientific enterprise.  Many of us, including me, have bought into the idea that science, though practiced by humans, has managed to rid itself of the human flaws that leave their mark on every other human undertaking.  The purity of science is guaranteed by the rigor of ‘the scientific method,’ we think.

“Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson described this utopian view as follows in the first episode of the Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey television series:

This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules: test ideas by experiment and observation; build on those ideas that pass the test; reject the ones that fail; follow the evidence wherever it leads; and question everything.  Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.

“That all sounds very nice.  And if ideas could be tested with a meter, the way batteries and fuses can, then Tyson’s simple rules would work.  But if we intend to question everything, perhaps we should begin by questioning whether the human testing of human ideas can really be so simple, considering how complicated humans are.

“Nowhere are these complications more evident than in the discussion of big ideas that touch the way we live, because here we find that everyone — scientists included — has a strongly held view.  And the very biggest ideas are those that offer answers to the all-important question of how we got here.  We should by all means trust the scientific community to tell us how many moons orbit Neptune or how many protons are packed into the nucleus of a cobalt atom.  Why would anyone distort facts of that kind?  Matters where everyone wants to see things a certain way, however, are a completely different story.  With those we should always apply a healthy dose of skepticism.”

 Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed (New York: HarperOne, 2016), 37-38

 

The third quotation comes from Brian Schmidt, a Montana-born astrophysicist who holds dual Australian and American citizenship and who currently serves as Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU).  He shared both the 2006 Shaw Prize in Astronomy and the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics with Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess for providing evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.  According to his Wikipedia entry, “He is not religious, being described as a “militant agnostic” with his tagline, “I don’t know, and neither do you!”  And yet here’s the quotation:

 

“Like a Bach fugue, the Universe has a beautiful elegance about it, governed by laws whose mathematical precision is meted out to the metronome of time.  These equations of physics are finely balanced, with the constants of nature that underpin the equations tuned to values that allow our remarkable Universe to exist in a form where we, humanity, can study it.  A slight change to these constants, and poof, in a puff of gedanken experimentation, we have a cosmos where atoms cease to be, or where planets are unable to form.  We seem to truly be fortunate to be part of Our Universe.

“A seemingly perfectly rational argument to come to terms with this streak of good luck is that, since we exist, we must therefore live in a Universe where we can exist.  But this idea has at its heart the notion that ours is selected from a multitude of universes — and there is no evidence for, or against, such a construct of nature. . . .

“[H]umanity appears to be part of a remarkable set of circumstances involving a special time around a special planet, which orbits a special star, all within a specially constructed Universe.”

 

Posted from Los Angeles, California

 

 


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