If you tuned into my last column, you will have probably witnessed me have right old dig at the scientific mainstream for choosing a mechanical and lifeless model of the universe with which to indoctrinate the “civilised” world. Fair enough it may sound a damn sight better than the picture painted by western religion, where one step out of line will have you condemned to fire and brimstone for eternity, but I find both to be wholly ineffective at describing the world as I see it.
The source of this great divide between science and religion is usually attributed to the philosopher Rene Descartes, who in the early 1600’s pioneered the idea that the world of matter is purely mechanical; that atoms are just lifeless balls of energy which coast around the universe governed by simple physical laws. Although he and his contemporaries still believed in God, they had created a secular science by extracting God out of the physical world; the universe became a clockwork device, where God was the watchmaker and had no further involvement after winding it up. The roman catholic church accepted this, and the scientific revolution began - people could explore the physical world with a renewed sense of freedom as there was no longer any fear of committing heresy and getting burned at the stake.
One of the consequences of this, was that man was essentially promoted to a God-like status within the physical world. Even animals were believed by the intelligentsia to have no spirit in them, but were viewed as mere complex clockwork phenomena resulting from the laws of motion, and thus equally amenable to scientific experimentation. One source writes “They administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference, and made fun of those who pitied the creatures as if they felt pain … They nailed poor animals up on boards by their four paws to vivisect them and watch the blood circulate, which was a great subject of conversation”.
So the so-called “Enlightenment” got off to a pretty unenlightened start, and although we have come a long way since that particular kind of vile materialism, the belief that Earth is merely a resource to feed man’s whimsical desire has persisted. It fueled the industrial revolution and underlies our entire world economy. Nothing is sacred except human life, and even then some of us are more sacred than others. In theoretical physics, the idea of a spiritually devoid universe has been explored to obscene levels. The creators of the universe, they say, are lifeless energy membranes floating in some hyper-dimensional vacuum and colliding with each other to produce “big bangs”. Most of the collisions lead to “failed universes” and we happen to live in one which succeeded. But don’t get too excited, because according to one recent article on BBC News, it’s all going to end in cold dark emptiness, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
You see, in between the big bang and the cold dark emptiness, the debris from the explosion accidentally happened to organise itself into what we call life. It’s a total fluke, an uncountable series of highly improbable events, one after another. Our consciousness is just the latest in the chain; an illusion at the leading edge of the big bang explosion. Eventually it will all decay into absolute nothingness, just like before the accident. Now to be fair, it’s probably one of the least ridiculous theories of the universe you can create without incorporating a spiritual dimension. But as many people will attest, this 400 year old paradigm of secular materialism is crumbling, and the global economy which is built upon it is sinking like the proverbial house on sand.
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