Being Special

One of the phrases often ascribed to the Christian God, and quite possibly to other deities as well is goes as follows: “is, was, and ever shall be.” But what if that phrase refers to the universe as well? A group of scientists has come up with a new theory, whose mathematical details I’m not about to try to even vaguely describe, suggesting that it is quite possible that the universe cycles from big bang to expansion to contraction to big bang, etc. Yes, I know, there’s an older theory, now discredited, which proposed the same thing, but this is the newest and latest version.

Whether it’s the new theory or the old one, or some other version that has yet to be proposed, the idea of an eternal universe has very definite theological implications, the first of which is that there’s no need for a deity, since the universe always existed. But if it always existed, what created it? Did it even need a creator?

According to human thought, of course it did. Human beings believe most passionately in causality. Everything must have a cause, and from every cause flows an effect, which causes something else. In turn, belief in causality requires a prime cause, and almost all religion is based on trying to explain in one way or another the prime cause. What if there happens to be no prime cause? What if the universe is merely an endless infinite loop of energy that oscillates from concentrated energy to diffuse entropy? Admittedly, that is a cause, but it’s not a “cause” that’s particularly satisfying to the individual or collective human ego.

We want a cause — for everything, not just the universe — and preferably one that places us in a position of some self-importance. After all, isn’t the search for God, the belief in a Deity, the quest for a prime mover or cause, isn’t all of that really just a way of reassuring ourselves that we’re special enough to have been created, guided, and led, rather than the result of chemistry, physics, and natural selection?

Yet, even from our limited searches of our own solar system, it’s clear that, in percentage terms, very few locations in any galaxy can harbor complex and intelligent life forms. Given the size of the universe, however, there are most likely millions of other solar systems where life could develop. Even though such are likely to be hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands of light years away, that doesn’t mean that we’re all that special in terms of the universe, especially if intelligent beings could arise in each re-birth of an endless and infinite universe.

For that reason alone, I suspect that any “endless universe” theory will face very tough criticism, not that any of the critics will ever suggest that anthropomorphism might fuel their doubts or opposition.

After all, who doesn’t want to be special… or at least a part of something special?