Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who Do You Trust?

Illustration: from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

"To realize or be aware of something without counting on it is the most characteristic form of an idea; to count on something without realizing it, is the most characteristic form of a belief." Ortega y Gasset, Historical Reason (p. 21).

"Human reason left to its own resources is completely incapable not only of creating but also of conserving any religious or political association, because it can only give rise to disputes and because, to conduct himself well, man needs beliefs, not problems." Joseph de Maistre, Study on Sovereignty

"... the production of belief is the sole function of thought." Charles Sanders Pierce, from "How To Make Our Ideas Clear."

It is a truism that our perceptions are influenced, or even in some sense conditioned, by our beliefs. According to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey press release, the picture shows galaxies lying near the plane of the Earth's equator in a 2-billion lightyears deep 3D map. Somehow evidence and measurement "bolster" the case for Dark Energy and Dark Matter - the heading of the press release. By combining these measurements with those from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), the SDSS team "measured the cosmic matter to consist of 70 percent dark energy, 25 percent dark matter and five percent ordinary matter." These findings appear to confirm the leading cosmological model, that is, a "rapid expansion of space known as inflation that stretched microscopic quantum fluctuations in the fiery aftermath of the Big Bang to enormous scales. After inflation ended, gravity caused these seed fluctuations to grow into the galaxies and the galaxy clustering patterns observed in the SDSS."

Dark Energy and Dark Matter are hypothesized to exist (their existence has never been proved) because of the complicated mathematical formulations of Relativity and Big Bang theories. That is to say, the theories dictate the existence of entities which are thus, in this sense, purely faith-based. Perhaps modern cosmology is a good illustration of Pierce's formulation, that the sole function of thought is to produce belief. I doubt that this is the way that scientists like to think of themselves. Also one has to ask, which comes first, the cart or the horse? Does the belief give rise to a system of thought, or does the system of thought give rise to the belief? Where, in this game of tag, is the "objective referent," i.e., reality itself, or as the positivists like to say, the "empirical verification"?

My attention was drawn to this particular illustration of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey through Robert Sungenis magisterial work on geocentrism, which pretty much says that modern cosmology is the emperor with no clothes. Make that a ditto for Copernicanism, Einsteinism and Big Bangism too. It's all a cart with no horse, because the uncomfortable fact is, the motion of the earth has never been proved, and even the very tenets of Relativity state that there is a functional equivalence between a stationary sun with rotating earth and a stationary earth with a rotating sun.

According to Sungenis, "The pictorial provided by SDSS shows Earth in the center of two wedge-shaped galaxy segments that also show galaxy density decreases as the distance from Earth increases. Only from the vantage point of Earth do these stunning proportions become significant. In other words, if one were to view them from another part of the universe the concentric proportions would not appear. The centrality of Earth provided by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is thus consistent with the quantization of redshift values that have been accumulated for four decades prior. Once again, the 'Copernican Principle' is violated. The evidence shows that Earth is the hub of the universe." (Galileo Was Wrong, p. 191)

The Copernican Principle, also sometimes called the Principle of Mediocrity, states that there is no center in the universe, and that no position is 'privileged,' to use the postmodern jargon. Quantized redshifts refer to the discovery that the redshift of various galaxies are all distributed at specific periodic or specific distances from the Earth (multiples of 72 km/sec and smaller ones at 36 km/sec). The magazine Sky and Telescope wrote, "Quantized redshifts just don't fit into this view of the cosmos [i.e. the Big Bang], for they imply concentric shells of galaxies expanding away from a central point, Earth."

Ultimately, our age will have much to answer for in the realm of beliefs. In my novel, After the Crash (available through the self-publishing venue, I take up this question in the context of a whimsical tour of the world after the virtual disappearance of petroleum. In the chapter, "Belief Systems Seminars," I write:

"In the early days of the Crash, when there was still electricity, though intermittent, Belief System Seminars were all the rage.

"Belief System Seminars were fantasy-renewing social engagements and exercises. Someone in a Seminar would begin by saying, 'I can't believe this is happening,' and then four or five people would chime in, adding their four or five alternate lack-of-belief narratives to the original one. By the end of the day... you would have heard twelve or fifteen people recount their
lack of belief stories in excruciating detail.

"By the time the Crash had ceased to be an event separable and distinguishable from what was happening in general -- when living without oil, gas, much electricity or abundance of food and water had become the fact of the day, most people found that they had no further use for their lack of belief... At least the people who were sharing their lacks of belief, or lack of beliefs, were engaging in a kind of collective mourning, a group consolation exercise for the past age. In that light, even lack of belief had a certain currency. It was backed up by the good faith and credit of belief itself, the idea or ideal of believability. . . In any case, the collapse of the hydrocarbon cognitive habits combined with the destruction of belief was the double blow that caused so many people to wander in the suburbs of insanity. The era was booming with psychic breakdown. Millions capitulated under the accumulated woes of low food, having to walk everywhere, not believing in what was happening before their eyes, and having to rely on their own powers of perception and reason instead of television. . . "

The repertory of beliefs in our age is a very long asphyxiating list: Progress. Democracy. The Press. The Free Market. Globalization. Efficiency. Technology. Multiculturalism. Equality. The Vote. The Market. The Economy. Freedom. Autonomy. Secularism. Evolution. Genes (either Selfish or Altruistic). Add to this the idols of science, which Simone Weil already noted half a century ago, was beginning to acquire the worst features of religion - dogma and mystique. One begins to long for the day when the salvation of your soul depended on a central belief enunciated with the clarity of a beam of light -
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen. we believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

... and left the rest of the world and the soul aglow in freedom - for by means of the light, everything else was open.


I am travelling to Oregon for a few days and will not post again probably for a couple of weeks. Thanks again to my readers who have written of their appreciation for this blog.

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