Our man-made universe 13

We enjoy Andrew Klavan‘s columns. We often concur with his opinions. And with the column we quote today we come close to agreeing entirely.

What we cannot agree with him about today is that life came to our planet because – he implies – God put it here, and if God had not, it could not and would not have arisen.

The really strange thing about this fine and amusing article is that everything else he says argues well that the mind of man, not God, is the creative faculty in our universe and of our universe.

Here is his article at PJ Media:

Sunday was Earth Day, and in honor of the occasion, I’d like to say that as far as I’m concerned the Earth can go to hell.

The Earth — for those of you who may have fallen behind on your reading — is a piece of rock trapped in a slow death spiral into a cauldron of exploding plasma which, for lack of a better word, we’ll call the sun. Because that’s its name. There is exactly one interesting or worthwhile thing about this hunk of doomed space debris, and that is: it happens to maintain the conditions necessary for supporting life. (The odds against this would be ridiculously impossible, by the way, if there were no God — so impossible that scientists have been forced to invent all kinds of silly multi-universe scenarios solely for the purpose of convincing themselves that there is no God. But that’s their problem, and neither here nor there.)

(Let’s politely overlook that superfluous and self-contradicting interpolation.)

So the earth supports life. Whoopee. And there is exactly one interesting or worthwhile thing about life — only one — and that is the mind of man.

“Holy cannoli, Klavan on the Culture,” you may be saying to yourself, or even out loud — because, let’s face it, you’re kind of an odd person — I mean, just look at you. Anyway, “Holy cannoli or even moley,” you may be saying, “how can you say the mind of man is the only interesting or worthwhile thing about life? What about the beauty of the running gazelle? The nobility of the flying eagle? The awesome awesomeness of the spacious skies above the amber waves running to the purple mountains above the fruited plains? And how about those glazed donuts with the yellow creme inside? I love those!”

First of all, stop talking so much, this is my blog. And b, there is no beauty, no nobility, no awesome awesomeness — not even the taste of a glazed donut — outside the human mind.

Yes, yes,yes. Because there is no other mind. No mind divine beyond nature.

The science is not yet settled, but reality itself may be in part a production of the human mind as there are some aspects of the world that don’t seem to resolve themselves until we observe them. But in any case, the gazelle would be fleet for nothing, the eagle would be a winged eating machine, the skies and the waves and the mountains would be dreams without the dreamer if man were not here to know them.

Once you realize this, everything changes. You no longer worry about the earth running out of energy resources, because you realize there are no energy resources — there never were — there are only various forms of matter that our minds, the mind of man, transformed into energy resources for our pleasure and convenience. These will never run out as long as we’re here because the mind is limitless and will invent more.

You no longer worry about pollution, because you know that once free people become annoyed by it, other free people will fix it with cleaner fuel-burning methods and filters. Where are the pea soups of London? Where are the smogs of Los Angeles? Where are the snows of yesteryear? All right, I was just curious about that last one.

You no longer worry about the earth, because the earth is here for us, not the other way around. The earth is just our living space — for now. We should keep it reasonably clean and pleasant. But a carping obsession with spotless housekeeping turns you into a scolding fishwife — or an environmentalist — and makes life less comfortable for man, not more. …

The earth is not warming catastrophically. Fracking does not cause earthquakes. We should find and use every drop of oil we’ve got — there’s enough there for centuries, by which time we’ll be living on Alpha Centauri powering our flying cars with toilet paper or old pages of Barack Obama’s autobiography… but I repeat myself.

So screw Earth Day. I would like to declare today — and every day — the Mind of Man Day. Celebrate that — nurture that — glorify that — and the earth, believe me, will take care of itself.

Standing ovation.

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  • Harold

    Without the God bit, it does not make any sense.  He is claiming an exceptionalism for Man as the only being that has any consciousness.  Whilst it is clear that Man’s consiousness is far greater than any other creature, it is not clear that it is completely lacking in other creatures, or that it will remain so for their descendents.

    The thesis that the only point of anything existing is because Man can take pleasure from it is not coherent.  He posits a straw man that the “beauty” of a gazelle or the “nobility” of the Eagle are worthwhile on their own, then says that beauty and nobility are meaningless without Man.  Yes, of course they are, but  the Eagle is a winged eating machine for the benefit of the Eagle.  The Gazelle leaps for the benefit of the Gazelle.  They may not appreciate art, but they do a full stomach.   There is no taste of glazed donut without man, but there surely is of flesh prey, or lush grass. He is arrogant enough to claim, not that Man gets more from the Eagles flight than the Eagle does, but that the Eagle gets nothing! 

    If man were to disappear, then chimps may evolve a similar consciousness.  Or dolphins, or slugs (eventually).  It is not impossible.  Then what would be the point of Earth?

    It only makes sense if Man is completely separate from the animals.  Perhaps made so by God.  Without the divine, we are just the most important (by far) of the creatures on Earth, but not the only one with any importance.

    By his thesis there was nothing interesting or worthwhile about life 5 million years ago, but where would we be without it?

    Oh, by the way, I think he has mis-understood the Copenhagen intepretation of quantum mechanics.

    • Jillian Becker

      Harold – 

      It’s a huge subject, the contribution of the HUMAN MIND to the facts of science, but a good introduction to it is a series of videos of which this is no 2:

       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAP4E3EpedE

      Try it as a sample of the whole series. Then maybe watch them all?

      • Harold

        Ah, Brian Magee and “Men of Ideas”.  I had the book along time ago.  Very interesting, and thanks for linking the series.  I am sure I will learn from the whole series, but there is nothing in section 2 that contradicts anything I have said. 

        The difference I hold with the author of the above passage is the rejection of any importance whatsoever in anything other than man.  I could justify this from a selfish “why should I care about anything else” perpective.  Such an argument would be consistent, although I would not agree with it.  The above seeks to justify it on the basis that the attributes in man that make anything worthwhile are totally absent in anything other than  man.  If. as I do, you believe that man is part of the evolutionary history of Earth, then mankind shares many attributes with other creatures.  These creatures posses in diminished form the same attributes that he says impose any importance.  Chimps sit looking at sunsets.  Are we sure they have no appreciation?  Dogs show every sign of pleasure, can we say their feelings are worthless?

    • George

                        With all do respect Harold  , I’m trying to understand your position regarding two sentences that you posited.
                                The sentences are —               ” Perhaps made so by God. Without the divine , we are just the most important ( by far ) of the creatures on earth , but not the only one with any importance “. 
                       Are you speaking as a religious person embracing a  “GOD”  belief  ?   Are you asserting that everything that exists comes from some divine supernatural being ?   I’m just curious where you stand here . Is your comment suggesting some  “divine” deity made everything out of some form of “divinity” .  If I recall , I believe you said before that you are a scientist.   My other question is , are you religious or secular ?    Do you believe in a supreme being or do you believe that we exist  as simply a part of nature acting in the form of perpetual natural phenomena  that we as humans are still exploring ?  I’m asking this out of inquisitive inquiry. It’s only those two sentences that I’m asking for an explicit explanation of  ( not the rest ).

      • Harold

        I was not clear.  I meant that those who say mankind is exceptional in this sense need to rely on some divine meaning – such as the creation myth, in order to justify the exceptional position of man.  I reject these myths, and hold that man is part of the animal kingdom.  We are special, and the most important species we should care about.  But I can’t say that man is the only important thing.  Unless you believe we were made special by God, why should you believe that the creatures that share our evolutionary history have no importance at all? 

        • George

          In that regard , we agree.   I notice that your primary post or comment is related to this subject or climate change and I have been wondering why no comment on subjects like religious terrorist acts, or religious extremism, etc. I asked for information purposes only and that nothing negative was meant whatsoever.  While we may have differing viewpoints on the “global warming issue ” ,  I agree with your position on your last reply .  

    • Liz

      I think you’re missing the point here.  The whole concept of “meaning” itself is a human concept.  Without man here to give “meaning” to anything, it doesn’t have any – it just exists.  If man had not evolved a brain capable of finding meaning in life, we would just exist, also.
      That doesn’t mean nothing is worth existing just because it doesn’t see meaning, it just means that it is insane to twist that “meaning” into the idea that everything is better off and would fulfill some kind of better “meaningfulness” without us, so we should just sacrifice ourselves for the “greater good”.

      • George

        Absolutely    !!!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Yarber/100000024350868 Robert Yarber

    Eh, well, the first error he makes is the Earth is most definitely not in a “death spiral” into the sun. The Earth’s orbit is not a “spiral”, it’s an ellipse. The closest the Earth comes to the Sun is 147,098,290 kilometers, known as Perihelion. Just thought I would correct that mistake. :)

  • http://themoonshinesbrighter.wordpress.com/ Andrew M

    I don’t find this article very adventurous, much less profound. It fails to release the mind from the prison of our own bodies.

    Humans are still apes. They bear the unmistakable similarities of their ancestry: bodies with hair, reproduction between two distinct sexes which result in live births, impressively powerful minds whose powers are nonetheless locked firmly in a single time. The most impressive thing about humans is how unimpressive they will be compared to their descendants.

    Let’s go back in time. The most impressive thing about our simian ancestors is how unimpressive they were compared to us. Only two traits made them produce us over thousands of generations: the brainpower to contemplate the manipulation of matter (including the brains of their siblings and children) and the body structure to actually do so. Plenty of animal species, like dolphins and monkeys, have one of these traits but lack the other.

    Walking long distances to find the numerous resources required for their still-feeble manufacturing powers, this single twig attempted many different variations of this basic formula over hundreds of thousands of years. Out of the African laboratory emerged a series of continual improvements who had to endure a nasty ice age, until one species proved to the wilderness of Earth that it had everything it needed to populate all of its continents. Armed with spears and protected with pelts, their children would first build farms to nourish the growing minds of their children, whose children would build entire civilizations.

    I am amazed, but I am not impressed. This is just the first chapter of our story. The potential of the species has been unlocked, but it hasn’t yet been unhinged. Our ability to communicate with each other restricts the world of our thought along the terminology of our “common” language, but this merely hides how uncommon the ideas behind these terms are between individuals of the species.

    Civilizations have a track record of establishing a sense of conformity, which historically restricted the output of bold ideas about reality which were more “correct” than the prevailing wisdom. Perhaps the greatest deficit of this attitude is the reluctance to explore the weird world of the conscious to defend the normal world of society against – what, members of our own species? This species still too violent and delusion even without drugs to permit this exploration. We are barely rational creatures.

    The biggest gripe I have with Klavan’s article is the idea that we will be exploring other planets and galaxies with human bodies. This is not an ambitious future for our children. Perhaps this passes as being “incredible enough” for his suffocatingly narrow theology, but I bet he has not even considered that there is a vastly more fascinating world to explore beneath his nose – nay, in his nose.

    The fabric of the universe itself, its tiny quantum waves making the spectacle of human structure and experience possible, is a far more enriching world to explore than his cliched futurist delusions of interstellar travel.

    • Liz

      Andrew – what your saying is true, but I think you’re missing the point of the article.  Klavan’s point wasn’t so much what our specific potential as humans is as the fact that we are being denied the chance to fulfill that potential by humanity-hating enviro-Nazis, for completely bogus reasons.

      • http://themoonshinesbrighter.wordpress.com/ Andrew M

        You’re right, Liz. We are surrounded by cults, pockets of deep misunderstanding which promise despair to our species. These particular lunatics are just as trapped by their Earthly concerns as Klavan, failing to realize how the Universe is over 99% pristine wilderness which needs not even a perfunctory dusting.

        Even so, I actually did like the article a lot, but I still feel like he’s throwing his polemical punches with Sock’em Boppers instead of brass knuckles.

  • Liz

    Thats great!!!  I love it.  Exactly on the button in every way with the exception of his references to God.  (Odd, actually, how someone who sees the mind of man so clearly as the sole purveyor of meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe could still believe in a god.)  But otherwise he is 100% right – Earth Day is as phony as Obamas contributions to society, and both deserve to be toilet paper.