- “Life neither me or thee created.”
- “You don’t know where life came from.”
- “The Ground of Being.”
- “Your Flatland theories.”
- “Tis a mystery, life.”
- “Science and scientism…can’t explain what grows the grass.”
These are the types of petulantly ignorant statements you’ll hear if you try to burst the bubble of those addicted to mystery. These are people who have no awareness of the scientific understanding of life, and they don’t want to understand it. They’d rather keep everything permanently vague, than even explore what science already knows. Because, well, that would take actual effort on their part. They also invariably bitterly mock the very science they don’t know.
I sent the following tweet, which generated the rest of this frustrating discussion:
BV: And some just observe with no religion or ideology
BlackSun: BV, everyone has an epistemology. Some rely on revelation, subjectivity, direct unchecked experiences, scripture or authority. Others rely on their wits and double-checked observations under laboratory conditions from multiple observers.
BV: Fair nuff. Let me say this: God doesn’t matter.
BlackSun: Not to me, and maybe not to you. But to billions it does, and they vote, fight, and miseducate their children based on those ill-formed concepts.
BV: Yes. None of which negates what’s still existing as the life neither me nor thee created.
BlackSun: So let me see–you want it both ways.
BV: Life doesn’t exist without our say so? I was under the impression it did.
BlackSun: First you said God is not important, then you implied he/she/it created life. Which is it? Or are you one of those permanent fence-sitters who uses both sides of the argument depending on what’s convenient?
BV: Are you one to jump to hasty convenient conclusions? I never implied there was a god that created life. I’m talking about life not god.
BlackSun: OK, fair enough. Life exists. What is the point of that tautology?
BV: Where did it come from?
BlackSun: Life? Abiogenesis is pretty close to being understood. Evolution through natural selection is very well understood.
BV: Are you satisfied to let that stand as your definitive answer to the question Prophet?
BlackSun: It’s what I said, isn’t it, BV? What are you, the host of “Who wants to be a theist?” Um, “Sir, is that your final answer??”
BV: No I’ll make it easy for YOU Sean. You don’t know where life comes from. And your answer, even with your flatland theories, pales to what is truly being asked.
Tis a mystery, life. It certainly is alive though and I’m sure I’m better served to put it in that category of what can be better observed than to know about. …a position that allows a crack to let it run on its own, as it were. It’s alive for chrisssake! Who did that and what shall we call it?!
BlackSun: A fine surrender, sir. Well played.
BV: No surrender at all Prophet. Sword or olive branch suits me equally.
Nobody gave us life, there’s never been a god. There’s only just been life, the creator, upbuilder and sustainer of all. This life doesn’t need us a whit but by its absence it can drop the body in a minute. Therein is the source of us, a higher power to our quaint thinkers. How may I increase its grace or marshal it to do my bidding? Only by the more aliveness in me, that is the church worth finding!
Call it evolution if you like but abiogenesis or selection didn’t create this ground of being. This ground of being has always been, and gives rise to our gardens and apples and discrimination and separation and good and evil. Every sacred scroll from every culture has been grasping at these dynamics through mythology. It’s the literalists and logical positivists who turn symbol into concrete.
BlackSun: “ground of being” = meaningless in your vernacular–doesn’t really explain or even describe anything, just a vague sense you have. Atoms and molecules and people give rise to gardens and apples through well understood physical and biological principles. Plants are a highly advanced form of nanotechnological self-replication, and in a sense, so are we.
But the way you describe it, everything = nothing = a tree = a pack of bubble gum = sword = olive branch. That is intellectual surrender by any definition.
A lot of words to say not much. Doesn’t really add to knowledge or even “being.” Back to the tautology, or down to a weak relativism. This is very primitive stuff. Avoids discipline, taking sides, separating known from unknown, boundaries. It’s easy to claim advancement when there are no wrong answers and everything is everything.
Which works as a kind of Zen poetry I guess, but myths are myths and understanding what this whole experience of life is about takes a lot more than metaphor. It takes hard work, which is why few people bother. But somehow, we’ve got to move beyond this simplistic stage to a place where people stop being so threatened by knowledge and begin to value it.
By the way, this was not at all the subject of my post, but new agers always take the bait, because it seems you want everything to be “connected” by some form of energy that ties back to God even if you don’t want to give it that particular name.
If I had to give it a name it would be “physics,” I suppose, which underlies all chemistry and biology. We are not physics, though our existence may be defined by it. If you wanted to call that a “ground of being” then I wouldn’t disagree. But it’s not alive, doesn’t communicate or form personalities. It’s a definition of how the component parts of this whole experience relate to one another and give rise to stars, people, apples, swords and olive branches.
The bottom line of what I was really saying is just rely on yourself and accept your place as an advanced mammal in a flesh and blood world–who’s going to live a short time and then die without a trace. That’s it. If you just stick with “the more aliveness in me” part as long as you possibly can, you’ll be fine. And I think a little appreciation for the hard work done by scientists is in order. They’ve certainly made our lives better. We’re incalculably lucky to have been born at all. Luckier still to have been born at a time of such profound understanding unprecedented in human history.
A mere few hundred years ago, we didn’t know our ass from a hole in the ground, or a black hole. Now we understand a great deal about the universe and our place in it. We also understand how our bodies and minds function. Come on, you can at least stop feeling above it all long enough to manage a golf clap.
BV: Dear Concrete: All the science and scientism I’m sure gets a clap for more data and understanding. And none of it can explain what grows the grass besides late-stage catalytic events. It is life itself you cannot know objectively because that is what’s looking. And you cannot account for it. I’m “above it all” not enough to at least know to admit that.
BlackSun: Using the word “scientism” is basically a cry of “I won’t, I won’t” uttered with eyes shut, fingers jammed in the ears. BV, now you’ve sent up the white flag in a mighty blaze of fireworks.
What a waste of breath and life that whole discussion was. Stubborn and petulant to the very end. But I’ll manage to use it somewhere somehow to illustrate for someone’s benefit the true depths of ignorance we humans face. It’s a wonder any of us have learned anything at all. You say “none of it can explain” when you’ve just failed to accept the explanation. Or even consider it. The fault in that situation, I’m afraid, doesn’t lie with the explainer. Now you’ve officially and permanently exhausted my patience.
Note: This is why I don’t do long discussions like this, anymore. It’s also why I’m so liberal on the block button on social media when I hear a disqualifying statement. “What grows the grass?” You mean like every other plant? Photosynthesis and water and nutrients and cell division. Obviously. It’s just crazy that there are conversations like this at all, instead of talking about how we can elevate the state of knowledge, or governance, or reach out to the stars. Billions of people are still having their minds wasted, spinning their wheels over differing interpretations of bad ideas that have nothing to do with the universe in which they live. Years later, I still find this all profoundly sad. –Sean Prophet, August 2022