Cole, my son and I attended a Neil deGrasse Tyson event in Huntsville. Cole shares my love of science, and it was pretty fantastic. There were actual photos of planets instead of artist depictions and video of Mars from our rover, of Europa (one of Jupiter's moons), of Saturn and her rings and just a wealth of knowledge. I mean if you are going to see Neil Tyson, what better place to see him than Huntsville, AL the Rocket City?!
Of course, Neil and I have some major theoretical differences when it comes to the after-life and here are the highlights I took from the night.
Neil said or implied (several times) that if you do not have the evidence to support religion, it is basically hogwash. Whenever he hinted or mentioned something related to religion and dismissed it as ignorant (in a pretty insulting way), it was followed by cheers and claps from fellow atheist. I didn’t understand the exuberance. I, mean, I would have if the cheers were for Science. There were some excitement for the scientific feats but I didn't understand the exuberant response to 'there is no God'- or why a scientist would bring up religion or politics when we had all paid to hear about the science he and everyone in that room shared an appreciation for. He said, or maybe it was more of an implication, but loud and clear either way; that if you were religious, you were picking a set of beliefs in the face of evidence that suggest otherwise. It was a blanket generalization, and I think he was referring to young-earthers who, as the name implies believe that the earth is much younger, (6000 years) than what science and the general population agrees on.
Of corse, I knew he held this view before attending but certainly don’t hide or shy away from someone who holds a different belief than me, I am always more curious in exploring why they think the way they do. If we only surround ourselves with people that hold the exact same belief system, we will never grow or modify our own beliefs- what a stagnant and depressing state that would be!
Of course we would also never discover anything if we only followed the hard evidence, sometimes you have to put it all on the line for the hunches… ‘thank you, Christopher Columbus’ ~ America. Ol’ Chris wasn’t looking for America; he was following a different hunch, he could reach the East Indies by traveling West. He didn’t have hard evidence and found a pretty big continent or two in the way. How long did we hunt the Higgs Boson particle on nothing or little more than a hunch? Scientist suspected it was there since the 1960’s and discovered through countless experiments in 2012 in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. It originally got its name the Goddamn particle because though they knew it was probably there, they were having a tough time finding it. They settled on the more socially expectable name the God particle. The God particle growing up seemed to suggest the Everything particle and that we would be that much closer to having it all figured out once we found it. But at last “God Particle” had a much different meaning than I knew at the time. Context means everything LOL!
Neil says that earth, our bodies, everybody including plants and inanimate objects on this planet is made up of mostly hydrogen, Nitrogen, oxygen, and a handful more of other atoms. He goes on to say our entire universe is made up of these same elements and that it is arrogant in all this real estate to assume that we are special enough to be unique, the only life forms in the universe. Ok. I that maybe the case but how does that mean that there isn’t a God? Why does the existence of other life imply that there is no God? That is a Ton of real estate to be empty- I literally cannot even adequately wrap my brain around how much vastness that is… and it is increasing at an increasing rate.. Wrap your brain cells around that.
With that said.. if you are relying on the evidence, then at least for the time being you are left to conclude that we are special as far as we can tell because, with all the right elements all over the universe needed to spontaneously generate life, it hasn’t. At least as far as we are capable of telling… so far. Some may jump up and down and say we do not have the capability to search, really search, for life outside of our own solar system.. that’s true. But, if all you need are some common elements, like the ingredients to bake a cake for life to spontaneously bloom and our own solar system is full of those ingredients then why isn’t our own solar system teeming with life. Why would we have to look any further than our neighboring planets (inside the Eden Zone). Could it be the lack of water? Well, all the same elements and water exist on Mars which is also about the right size and distance from the sun to support life according to those at the altar of abiogenesis. Europa and Neptune also are covered in water (ice) I am confident they have both been hit with asteroids in the past that would have provided more than enough heat and energy to spark life if that's all it takes. Maybe the cold is not a good incubator for life?
Neil also mentioned Panspermia which is the belief that life traveled here from somewhere else in the universe on an asteroid and either remained suspended indefinitely during this travel for hundreds of years or millennia or millions or who knows how many years?! I would go so far as to say he subscribes to this. He said if Panspermia was possible the life that rode an asteroid to earth would have to be both, extreme heat and cold resistant. It would also have to be able to do without water. Neil said we have an organism on this planet that does exist without water indefinitely and once it is back in the water, it re-animates like nothing ever happened. This same organism can survive the most extreme heat and cold and intense pressure and radiation, and the vacuum of space cant cramp its style not to mention that acid can't kill it. It is your friendly neighborhood microscopic tardigrade or the Water Bear. Look them up- they are amazing and either terrifying looking or adorable depending on your perspective. Let's say it was Panspermia that started life on this planet with just the right about of water and sun and heat and atmospheric conditions. Which by the way, NASA now says early earth atmosphere was oxygen-rich, not poor and not a very hospitable beginning for the beginning of life… which I think is what had some saying, if life couldn’t start here then it must have traveled here from somewhere else in the universe. But is that the answer or more of a circular argument? It would have been hard for it to start here so it must have started somewhere else in the universe, ok, then how did it start there? Through evolution, the same way you have been saying it started here since the mid-1800’s?
If it is arrogant to assume that the vastness of the universe is just a bunch of inanimate objects, it is also arrogant to assume that we have it all figured out and equally arrogant to assume something doesn’t exist because you cant see it. I still love Science of course and the people that search for all the answers .. live long and prosper. Gods Speed.