The Other I

February 12, 2010

Infinity might be hell

The concept of infinity – either the theological version used to describe God as basically indescribable, or the scientific version applied to time and space – has never overwhelmed me.

But I watched a BBC programme last night featuring some of today’s mathematical geniuses and I suddenly understood why science is so terrifying to so many people who believe in God.

These particular mathematicians see the entire universe in terms of mechanical probabilities.  That is in terms of random chance.  And they are brilliant.  They can think about numbers – huge vast numbers that lose all their intuitive meaning as they add on billions and billions of zeroes.  And they explain everything that has ever happened in the universe and everything that may evolve in this or other universes in terms of this stark probability.

It was the most ghastly view of the world that I have ever contemplated.   I guess contemplated is the operational word.  I am quite comfortable with the universe without any concept of God to which I have ever been introduced.  But I have always felt that there is some intrinsic meaning to existence.  It is certainly beyond my capacity to fully grasp, but I have always believed that life has meaning.

This view that all the universe is and will always be the result of random chance is utterly barren.  No wonder people who believe that the only other alternative to this bleak view is an autocratic God  choose to reject science.  It’s exactly why I think abused children so often become abusive parents – the alternative interpretation that they are not loved is even more terrifying than to accept that they deserved the punishments they received from a loving but stern father.

But I reject this view.

I don’t reject it because I believe in a supernatural force that is controlling what is happening in this natural world.

And I don’t – I think – reject it out of fear.

I don’t reject it because I have scientific proof to the contrary.  Although I do think there is a vector in the evolution of the universe that belies the view that everything happens randomly.

Ultimately I reject it because that isn’t what my experience seems to indicate.  Can I be wrong?  Of course.  But each of us looks at our lives and we must decide without conclusive evidence either way whether we think our lives in particular and all being in general has some meaning.

I know: maybe I think that because I have a goodly supply of those feel-good endorphins.  Or because I was loved as a child.  Or because I am loved as a woman.

But anyway, it’s my view.  And besides, not all mathematical geniuses take this bleak view.  So it’s not written in the numbers.

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