Saturday, July 02, 2011


In part one I recommended new myths based on the best science available. It's tragic to see billions of people guide their lives with myths that fly in the face of scientific fact, (7 day creation e.g.) and myths that lead them to squander their energies and damage the earth. I will share a modern myth (story, vision) that might inspire you. I begin by reviewing the current
understanding of how we got here.
1. The cosmos began about 14 billion years ago---with a BANG. We don't know how or why.

2. Energy condensed into simple matter. (hydrogen) We don't know what either is. (though we do know how they behave)

3. Matter is attracted to matter by a mysterious force---gravity. We don't understand this force.
(we do know how it behaves)

4. Matter draws itself into balls, and when big enough--crush the matter at its core--releasing energy and a star is born.

5. Crushing hydrogen releases energy and creates helium. Crushing helium (fusion),releases energy and creates lithium. Fusing lithium creates berillium-----and so on--up the atomic scale of elements---to Iron. (Iron will not fuse in a star)

6. Very big stars are (relatively) short lived---become unstable and explode, (a super nova)
(creating in that instant all the heavier elements we are familiar with) and casting its variety of elements out into the cosmos in a vast cloud of matter.

7. The cloud of matter again draws itself together into a huge rotating disc with lumps forming at its center (second generation star) and further out in the disc. (proto-planets)

8. When the new star lights up, its radiating force blows away the lingering "dust" leaving a solar system--like ours, with planets rotating around a sun.

9. When conditions are just right--as on earth---life is possible. In about a billion years the various elements assembled themselves (somehow) into a living cell that could replicate itself.

10. Replication is imperfect--changes occur randomly--and beneficial (adaptive) ones survived. 11. Evolution slowly morphed simple organisms into more complex ones, finally producing US.

Thousands of dedicated scientist over the centuries have uncovered these truths for us. In a nutshell, WE ARE MADE OF STARSTUFF---matter has an inner urge to complexify itself--all the way up to the human brain--to self awareness--(and beyond?) This is the story of us--that science can tell. This is the "situation" we find ourselves in---deep mystery behind us and deep mystery in front of us. It's an amazing, beautiful, and awe inspiring story-----long on HOW --but absolutely empty on WHY----which is what we seem to crave. Only humans seem to care about the WHY.

Not surprisingly, thousands of people have stepped forward to satisfy that craving. (like "rainmakers" during a drought) They make up stories explaining creation, (how and why things came to be), morality tales about how we should behave and the consequences if we don't----stories about the end of time--heaven and hell---various afterlife scenarios----stories of Gods and goddesses---some come to earth to instruct us humans and rescue us etc. Some stories are written down---collected into books and declared to be "holy." Religions arise--to comfort us and control us.

Most intelligent people today do not believe their stories literally or accept the morality they convey as authoritative.


Here's what I do:

1. I boldly admit that I do not know any ultimate answers about origin, destiny, morality---
I acknowledge that I live in a mystery. I believe everyone lives in a mystery, whether they acknowledge it or not.

2. I EMBRACE THIS MYSTERY---as best I can--going about my life as courageously as possible---guided by my deepest intuition--inspired by modern myths/stories/visions/guesses. I do not find it painful to live in a mystery. Perhaps the world was designed to be uncertain---mysterious. Perhaps uncertainty produces better people than a dogmatic certainty.

3. I believe it is possible to be happy, despite having no ultimate answers. (The best book on this subject is entitled FLOW by Csikszentmihaly )

4. I believe we have a measure of freedom to create and improve ourselves---inspire others.

5. I "try on" various metaphysical theories--from time to time--like trying on a pair of glasses--to see how they affect me. Here's an example I find interesting:

Maybe existence is best explained as ETERNITY ADVENTURING IN TIME. Perhaps the Baghavad Gita got it right: God created the world to amuse himself by incarnating into matter---becoming all that is--galaxies, rocks, trees, animals, us ---in a fantastical drama where He's playing all the parts---but is able to deceive himself--so as to experience DRAMA: He created time to experience the interplay of urgencies. We are all bits of God enjoying himself---given a "role" (and some flexibility) as an actor---our challenge is to play our part with all the courage and gusto we can muster. Evil is wired into the game as "plot thickener". (to my friends: when you see me as an outrageous pot stirrer---I'm probably in "Gita" mode.


Bob said...

Taking part of your post, I would like to give you my take on the big bang theory ...

If we create life by having sex, and we are created in God's image, (Substitute Powers That Be If you wish). then imagine creation as one giant orgasm ...

My Big Bang Theory!

polpuffin said...

I became a nonbeliever at age 11, I enjoyed your discussion with the clergy person. I haven't ever felt the need to go as deeply into my motivations as you, but I spent 30 years as a leader in the abortion rights movement, starting before Roe v. Wade. I'm a member of various atheist orgs, and in the local meetup. Many, if not most, of my friends are nonbelievers. I'll continue to read your blog; thanks for doing it and being a reverse missionary.

As a longtime birder, when I'd see missionaries in, say, Venezuela, I'd be utterly disgusted at what they do. In my book, they define "immoral."

Boared to death said...

BORING BORING BORING , Randy you have turned into a Reverse Preacher !!!!

Now you even delete your comments as you can't STAND THE TRUTH !!!!

Michael said...

If it's accurate you've given the best summary on astrophysics I've found.

I think you're getting very close to defining the Phact vs Friction. I've illustrated it here.

Keep it comin'! : )

Steve said...

All this has happened before, but all this does not have to happen again.

Pedro said...

part 2

For some, the prospect of living for hundreds of years is not particularly attractive, either, as it conjures up an image of generations of sick, weak old people and societies increasingly less able to cope.
But de Grey says that's not what he's working for. Keeping the killer diseases of old age at bay is the primary focus.
"This is absolutely not a matter of keeping people alive in a bad state of health," he told Reuters. "This is about preventing people from getting sick as a result of old age. The particular therapies that we are working on will only deliver long life as a side effect of delivering better health."
De Grey divides the damage caused by aging into seven main categories for which repair techniques need to be developed if his prediction for continual maintenance is to come true.
He notes that while for some categories, the science is still in its earliest stages, there are others where it's already almost there.
"Stem cell therapy is a big part of this. It's designed to reverse one type of damage, namely the loss of cells when cells die and are not automatically replaced, and it's already in clinical trials (in humans)," he said.
Stem cell therapies are currently being trialed in people with spinal cord injuries, and de Grey and others say they may one day be used to find ways to repair disease-damaged brains and hearts.

Pedro said...

Part 3

Cardiovascular diseases are the world's biggest age-related killers and de Grey says there is a long way to go on these though researchers have figured out the path to follow.
Heart diseases that cause heart failure, heart attacks and strokes are brought about by the accumulation of certain types of what de Grey calls "molecular garbage" -- byproducts of the body's metabolic processes -- which our bodies are not able to break down or excrete.
"The garbage accumulates inside the cell, and eventually it gets in the way of the cell's workings," he said.
De Grey is working with colleagues in the United States to identify enzymes in other species that can break down the garbage and clean out the cells -- and the aim then is to devise genetic therapies to give this capability to humans.
"If we could do that in the case of certain modified forms of cholesterol which accumulate in cells of the artery wall, then we simply would not get cardiovascular disease," he said.
De Grey is reluctant to make firm predictions about how long people will be able to live in future, but he does say that with each major advance in longevity, scientists will buy more time to make yet more scientific progress.
In his view, this means that the first person who will live to 1,000 is likely to be born less than 20 years after the first person to reach 150.
"I call it longevity escape velocity -- where we have a sufficiently comprehensive panel of therapies to enable us to push back the ill health of old age faster than time is passing. And that way, we buy ourselves enough time to develop more therapies further as time goes on," he said.
"What we can actually predict in terms of how long people will live is absolutely nothing, because it will be determined by the risk of death from other causes like accidents," he said.
"But there really shouldn't be any limit imposed by how long ago you were born. The whole point of maintenance is that it works indefinitely."

pedro said...

This will change your whole theory

part 1

LONDON (Reuters) - If Aubrey de Grey's predictions are right, the first person who will live to see their 150th birthday has already been born. And the first person to live for 1,000 years could be less than 20 years younger.
A biomedical gerontologist and chief scientist of a foundation dedicated to longevity research, de Grey reckons that within his own lifetime doctors could have all the tools they need to "cure" aging -- banishing diseases that come with it and extending life indefinitely.
"I'd say we have a 50/50 chance of bringing aging under what I'd call a decisive level of medical control within the next 25 years or so," de Grey said in an interview before delivering a lecture at Britain's Royal Institution academy of science.
"And what I mean by decisive is the same sort of medical control that we have over most infectious diseases today."
De Grey sees a time when people will go to their doctors for regular "maintenance," which by then will include gene therapies, stem cell therapies, immune stimulation and a range of other advanced medical techniques to keep them in good shape.
De Grey lives near Cambridge University where he won his doctorate in 2000 and is chief scientific officer of the non-profit California-based SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation, which he co-founded in 2009.
He describes aging as the lifelong accumulation of various types of molecular and cellular damage throughout the body.
"The idea is to engage in what you might call preventative geriatrics, where you go in to periodically repair that molecular and cellular damage before it gets to the level of abundance that is pathogenic," he explained.
Exactly how far and how fast life expectancy will increase in the future is a subject of some debate, but the trend is clear. An average of three months is being added to life expectancy every year at the moment and experts estimate there could be a million centenarians across the world by 2030.
To date, the world's longest-living person on record lived to 122 and in Japan alone there were more than 44,000 centenarians in 2010.
Some researchers say, however, that the trend toward longer lifespan may falter due to an epidemic of obesity now spilling over from rich nations into the developing world.
De Grey's ideas may seem far-fetched, but $20,000 offered in 2005 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review journal for any molecular biologist who showed that de Grey's SENS theory was "so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate" was never won.
The judges on that panel were prompted into action by an angry put-down of de Grey from a group of nine leading scientists who dismissed his work as "pseudo science."
They concluded that this label was not fair, arguing instead that SENS "exists in a middle ground of yet-to-be-tested ideas that some people may find intriguing but which others are free to doubt."

Randy said...

Thanks all for your comments and especially you Pedro for that hopeful information. I had hoped to do a better job on MEANING. I've failed to give the modern myth I promised----think I might do that in part three---but I sense a reader fatigue in this heavyweight stuff. I promise to catch up on my adventures and travels when I finish that. (I've found a cool Nirvana that I'll tell you about then)

Anonymous said...

The mind is afraid to die. It makes up all sorts of delusions to fool itself into thinking there is more after death.

All our thoughts about a afterlife are fueled by ego and fantasy. We think we are somehow exempt from the normal cycle of birth and death because we are self aware.

Being cursed with self awareness makes us aware we have an end. This has been the root cause of man's delusions sense the beginning. We take our days for granted and waste the only life we'll ever have. We assume we have all the time in the world instead of realizing how precious every second of every day is.

We either live in the past full of regret and sorrow or we live in the future full of anxiety and fear.When there is only NOW.

Avid Camper said...

Randy you're speaking my language. Haven't posted on this site in awhile but what I did write still applies:

Notice also our main points are similar:

Michael said...

I met and spoke at length with Aubrey de Grey. He spoke at the Santa Monica Philosophy Group in 06' or 07'. Afterwards he joined us for dinner and drinks. One thing I remember is that I wasn't satisfied that he's thought about overpopulation or cared to give and in depth answer about how to manage a population that lives hundreds of years. He does care and go into depth in promoting his theories.

Brian said...

yeah... in a world already grossly overpopulated and split with the divisive "positioning" of the fanatics on both sides of the abortion/birth control issue... let's spend even more money... to come up with more medical technology... to double, or triple life expectancy... so we can overpopulate even more... and add ever more stresses to a world that the human race can't learn to live in now... and oh yeah... and have even more medical treatments that people can't afford...

What makes more sense... is for everyone... as in EVERYONE... to stop trying to, Force Feed ,everyone else, their own personal agendas, while spouting the fallacious crap that they're "Tolerant"...

Live what you believe... but stop trying to force it down my throat with one bogus "Morality Legislation" after another...

'cause in the end? All this talk is just that... Talk... beyond personal responsibility for your own life... No One, has the moral authority to Impose... Anything... on Anyone... Not in the form of Moral Beliefs.

If you want to waste your time debating that which mankind will never know... until death... have at it...

Me, I don't have time for that crap... there's too much living to be done, to waste any more time fretting about unanswerable questions.

Nobody knows, or ever will, about the source of life... any more then the dumbest of Idiots... it's all just noise that adds to the garbage pile...

and men that think they can be as smart as "GODS", that they can "Create Life"... are the most insidious and dangerous of evils.

Mankind does not, and never will have, the intellect to be trusted with the "Source of Life"...

Anonymous said...

We used to like to read your blog.....thinking it was about your travels.....this crap is available to read anywhere!

Anonymous said...

Please get back to documenting your full-time travels, interesting places, and interesting people. This pseudo philosophy and anti-religion rant is just soooo boooring. Nearly all of us have worked out our own answers to these questions and issues. They are answers that satisfy our own view of the world and we're not going to change each other’s mind. It is so very condescending of you to imply that those who believe in Holy Scripture are some form of lesser-evolved life.

Michael said...

His views don't seem in conflict with mine and I have religious beliefs. Here:

It seems anonymous dissenters want to remain anonymous because it's embarrassing being the lowest common denominator.

Jim said...

ANONYMOUS: "It is so very condescending of you to imply that those who believe in Holy Scripture are some form of lesser-evolved life."
It's pretty well established that as one moves down the socio-economic scale (which surely must include IQ), faith in invisible sky gods becomes increasingly pervasive. As one moves UP the socio-economic scale, faith in fairy tales incrementally falls to the wayside like empty soda cans. I don't know about you, but I know which group I want to be a part of. And I knew that much when I was 18 (forty years ago).