It is truly a remarkable time indeed to be living on this planet. Although there is much yet to learn, for the first time in history humanity is on the cusp of truly understanding how WE came to be. I woke up this morning to the announcement of Stephen Hawking’s latest book “The Grand Design” in which he explains that we need not a god to explain the creation of the universe. The universe can, and most probably did, come from “nothing”.
For a number of years I personally was on the fence as an “Agnostic”. Loosely this definition meant one who did not believe in a Theistic god; and certainly not a mythological biblical god of wrath and salvation. The Agnostic posture allowed me to remain open to the possibility of some “cause” for our ultimate existence. That has since changed as I have educated myself more deeply into the origins of our existence.
This view has also sometimes been referred to as Deism; sort of acceding to god as the ultimate creator for lack of a better explanation. Some of our earliest American scientists were deists; Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, for example. Their skepticism of organized religion influenced their design in drafting the core governance of this nation. But at that time in history, they had neither sufficiently advanced technology nor the means of experimentation which would come in later times.
But now, Hawking’s contribution is both remarkable and timely in this point in human history. This is not his accomplishment alone but through standing on the shoulders of the giants who came centuries and decades before him; Newton, Einstein, Penrose, Krause, and many more – the combined body of knowledge which has brought us to the cusp of our understanding of our true origins.
Though I am not a sufficiently good enough writer, let alone science writer, to adequately convey the concepts for which I have barely the intellectual skills to grasp myself, I'll give it my best shot:
Essentially, the universe is not made of “nothing”. All that we can see, stars, galaxies, dust, gasses, all the observable “stuff” amount to less than 1% of the makeup of our the universe. What we don’t see is the roughly 70% of the universe that is made up of Dark Matter and the remaining 30% which constitutes Dark Energy.
The stuff we don’t see, the nothing is really not “Nothing”. But more importantly, it fully explains why our universe is expanding and why the rate of expansion is accelerating. And it explains how the preexisting concoction of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, like fuel and air, could result in a Big Bang, lit by a match called Quantum Fluctuation… particles which spontaneously come into existence and annihilate one another randomly. These particles mostly balance one another out, but sometimes they are out of balance... and POP - a universe is born.
The ramifications for this are history making; for the first time on this planet Man no longer needs the belief in a supernatural creator god as an explanation for how our universe came to be.
To help explain the science behind the concept, follower blogger and skeptical cohort, Dr. Mom (aka: The Mother’s Handbook) just recently sent me a YouTube link to an excellent explanation of this “nothingness”, the composition, origin and fate of our universe, by Dr. Lawrence Krauss. “A Universe From Nothing”. It is well worth devoting an hour to watch.
~ ~ ~Post Script:
As pleased as I was to hear of the release of Hawking’s new book, I also learned today that sadly, our fellow blogger whom I posted about yesterday, Penny, did not survive her injuries. My thoughts are with her family and friends today as well.
Such confluence of events reminds me that, for all the things that science can tell us about the world we inhabit; it is inadequate in helping us reconcile what it means to be Human. I closed yesterday’s post with a quote from my friend and documentary subject, Jerry Andrus. I didn’t think that merely scant hours later, two significant sources of information would make my universe simultaneously seem both so infinitely large and yet exceedingly small.