Real Mysteries 7/8/21

Science Philosophy with Richard Bleil

There are some things that I believe science will never be able to explain. Some of these questions are fairly standard. For example, if the big bang theory is true, then how did matter and energy come into being in the first place? Quantum theorists have actually been working on this, and believe they are nearing the proof that in a region of nothingness, a standard quantum fluctuation resulting from Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle will spontaneously create matter and energy, thereby negating the necessity of God to answer this question. Okay, I’ll accept that as a possibility, but from where did the nothingness come? And, while we’re at it, what’s to keep this from happening more than once? Why have we not detected a second creationistic event? In all of time, you would think it would have happened, well, frankly, an infinite number of times, wouldn’t it?

In fact, neuroscientists claim they have found the God Center. Yes, there is a region of our brain that is responsible for faith and the belief in God, or so they say. Well, again, maybe, but what would be the point of such a region of the brain? How can it further the probability of survival of the species?

But the brain is what raises many of my questions, whether or not a “God Center” is part of it. We are learning more about how the brain works, memory, problem solving, but as far as I know, nobody can explain consciousness. How do we explain self-awareness in the first place? Or is it just an illusion? We learn more and more about the chemical reactions that keep us alive, but somehow, we are more than the collective set of chemical reactions, biochemical structures and firing neurons. Today we can read DNA and create any protein it calls for, and we can control or recreate the chemical reactions, but nothing we create will have true intelligence (no, not even computers or AI), self-awareness or consciousness.

Life is still a mystery. We cannot create the simplest living organism. Some might say we can create viruses (I think we can, anyway), but currently experts are still debating if viruses are even truly alive (I’ve written on this topic previously). If we could create bacteria, though, is it conscious? We honestly have no idea what consciousness truly is, so how can we create it?

Genetic knowledge is another area that truly fascinates me. Star, my feline buddy, likes to “guard” me when I’m going to the bathroom, staying with me, and usually meowing as she does. This is what got me thinking about this post. See, there are those scientists who have suggested that cats learned to “meow” by listening to infants. When an infant needed something, it would cry, and the mother always instinctively responded to see what was wrong. As such, cats learned to mimic this cry (coming out as a “meow”) to get the attention of their humans.

But, if this is the case, it’s not something they teach their offspring. They seem to be instinctively born with this knowledge, and universally at that. Even if this hypothesis is not correct, we do know that there is some instinctive knowledge that seems to be just genetic like fear of large predatory birds, for example. My puppy Bella (gone far too long ago) would cower behind a chair at my friend’s house when the ceiling fan was on. I came to realize that the fan cast a shadow that moved in a very similar manner to a bird of prey, and it scared the tar out of her. There was clearly no opportunity for her mom to teach her this behavior; it has to have been built into her genetics.

I suppose this is where faith comes into play. There will always be more questions than answers in science. The concept that we know everything is very wrong. In fact, I had great fun last year in my Thermodynamics class when I showed my students the huge glaring weaknesses in science if you know how to look past the slick cover. Every answer in science raises at least three more questions; it’s a never ending well of questions. But some of these fundamental questions are the ones that fascinate me so thoroughly, and I don’t believe the questions will ever be answered. But I’m okay with that, as well. I have great faith, and that faith includes trust that even though we can never understand the true nature of consciousness and life, things are as they should be. There’s a point, even if I don’t know what it is. And that’s good enough for me.

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