What We Learned

In the past, many thought our world was quite small. A standing person could see about six miles. We traveled on foot. Twenty miles was a long day. A few people knew how big the Earth was although many were still afraid of falling off the edge.

That world of gods and goddesses, magic and superstition is gone.
Now our world is stars and galaxies, computersand DNA.

In case you took a nap, here is what we have learned in the last 500 years of science:

About the world in which we live and move and have our being - the universe:

This universe had a beginning - The Big Bang. We don’t know what happened before that. And the Bang itself was not like throwing a big firecracker  out into a field where  it can expand into the space around it. It was space itself that banged. There was no space before. Whether this space came from some prior space we do not know.

Everything here is a property of space itself - matter, energy, distance, time. On the lowest levels we have explored thus far, space seems to churn and foam, and matter pops into and out of existence. My opinion is that not only is matter made of discrete parts, but that space itself is quantized - digital - instead of continuous - made of discrete parts. 

The universe is digital. It is made out of discrete parts rather than being smooth from top to bottom. These parts are the particles of matter and light and their interactions. It is like a giant abacus with the beads bouncing off each other. It also contains the most amazing computers we know of - our brains.

We see structure: particles, atoms, molecules, stars, planets and galaxies -  Trillions of galaxies containing billions of stars each and atoms and molecules beyond far beyond billions of billions [sorry, Carl], even beyond trillions of trillions of trillions. ... 

One of the most amazing products on the molecular level is cells, life and us. And the number of parts and the scale of interactions is enormous. Lots left to explore here after only 13 billion years of startup. Evolution has barely scratched the surface so far.

About living things, including us:

1 - Altruism, empathy, morals, even love itself - these are found in all life here  - From cells to plants to mammals, evolution is as much about cooperation as it is about competition. Even trees care for their young and our mammal cousins feel their losses.

2 - Intelligence is also found in all levels of life here - from cells to plants to mammals. Humans inherited the beginnings of intelligence from our predecessors. Most of the difference is in the amount, some is in the type - until you get to us.

3 - Then humans did the most amazing thing: 

They learned how to construct new thoughts and ideas - from previous ones - and share them with each other via speech. It is the birth of language - of ideas - and of thinking. Now learning becomes awareness. And awareness becomes consciousness.

After billions of years of stars making elements, and elements making molecules, and molecules making us, we  become aware that the entire universe is a vast sea of information flowing around and in us. 

Furthermore, the universe has grown a brain - ours.

What does it all mean - about us humans?

1 - We are unique. On this planet, probably within the nearby stars, maybe even within this galaxy, certainly for the forseeable future.

2 - We are members of a group - we belong. Our development and our survival depend on belonging. Despite the myth of the “self-made man” we are products of equal measures of heredity, environment and our own will - nature vs nurture vs volition.

3 - We think. An amazing development, although we see the beginnings of thinking in our animal cousins and forms of intelligence in all life here.

4 - We feel. We can direct our thinking using our feelings - and vice versa.

5 - Our thinking has symbolic dimensions. Some of our symbols come from the real world. Others come from our brain - dreams, or nightmares. In between is a powerful blend of symbols we find meaningful in our daily lives. Our thoughts span from reality to fiction.

6 - We are the monkey that dreams.  Combining our thinking and feeling, we dream of fantastic voyages, of life and love. Spanning wants and needs, We make some of these dreams into reality. - We not only image dreams and imagine. We make them real. We realize dreams.

7 - We dream of belonging. Thinking, feeling and belonging - that is as good a definition of love as any. The goals of all this thinking, feeling and dreaming is to love and be loved, to belong with people around us - and indeed with all of nature and the universe.

The final lesson? 

While we were out searching, 
        we ourselves were the treasure we sought, 
                waiting back at home.

We found the monkey that dreams of going to the stars - us.

___________________

We will talk further about this development at:

Next >>>> The Treasure We Found

© Gareth Harris 2016       --------        Contact email: garethharris@mac.com        --------         see also: GarethHarris.com