After my last blog my brother Jack in Australia asked me whether I was getting religious whereupon I asked him whether he had ever spotted anything intelligent in any religion. I think we can leave that subject for the time being and see if anything intelligent may be found in non-living matter, the so-called inanimate stuff.

First, I’ll give you a statement by one of the finest brains of the last century, the physicist Richard Feynman:

“Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain.”

So much for scientific certainty and right away I’ll give you an enormous sample of what we assume but don’t know. We all know that the volume of water increases when it gets colder than 4°C. All other liquids, without exception, become heavier when cooled and their solids sink, only water has this unique characteristic. Why? It has been explained scientifically that the molecular formation of water expands below 4°C and therefore ice floats on water instead of sinking. Next question: why does this molecular formation expand? Next answer: not a scientist knows, it just does it, to my mind because it jolly well feels like it. Groups of ice molecules have decided that they don’t want to be buried on the bottom of the ocean and so, presto! they expand when it gets colder and they stay in the light. Would they not have this propensity, life on earth would never have existed as already 4 billion years ago our earth would have turned into a deeply frozen ice ball. Clever, hey, this notion that water has, to expand its molecules at the right moment, pity that we don’t know how it does it but then there are so many things we don’t know but use the properties thereof with great skill. We all can flick an electric switch, engineers build power stations but no one on earth knows what electricity is. Flow of electrons, positive and negative poles,..blah, blah. We can use it to a certain extent but we can’t stock it, it runs, it runs.

Clever people have been trying to stock electricity for the last 150 years; all we have are inefficient batteries with limited lifespan. They won’t become much better until we know what we’re dealing with, if ever we do. Technology seems to be slowing down, 50 years ago I travelled comfortably in a plane at 900km/hour, today I can do the same, without the comfort. But, 50 years before I travelled comfortably, there were no planes. The glorified IT business is still an unknown, this machine on which I’m writing can be invaded by any old bloody sod and I can’t do a thing about it.

When we get into the nitty gritty of physics, of particles and more strange particles, quantum mechanics, wave action as opposed to particle action, fewer and fewer people have any idea of what is happening in nature. Wood, iron, lead, all matter is a lot of atoms but they are spaced so far apart compared to their size that a table I made a number of years ago from heavy trees I cut down and quarter sawed is, according to the theory, far more empty space than atoms, yet it is a sturdy thing that could possibly carry a ton of bricks. Good old Maxwellian magnetic and electric fields are responsible you’re told when you ask, yeah, yeah… Here is some more Feynman: 

I think it is safe to say that no one understands Quantum Mechanics. One does not, by knowing all the physical laws as we know them today, immediately obtain an understanding of anything much.
The more you see how strangely Nature behaves, the harder it is to make a model that explains how even the simplest phenomena actually work. So theoretical physics has given up on that. (Richard Feynman, Quantum Mechanics)

 Well, if Richard doesn’t know, then, in my book, no one does. Experiments with sub-atomic particles have been carried out, the result of which cannot be understood because wave and particle action appear to be mixed up. Particles appear in one place because of wave-action theory, in another place according to particle theory and in two places at the same time as a result of no bloody theory. I assure you I’m not inventing. There is such a thing as parity, it means more or less that when you look in a mirror your right arm becomes your left. Don’t for a moment think that this is easily understandable because you see this phenomenon every day, go work it out yourself. Why are we not standing on our head in the mirror image?

Scientists study the parity of atoms and particles and come up with inexplicable findings that they call the absence of parity conservation. The element cobalt emits radiation directionally but what, according to parity, should have been to the left it bloody well goes to the right. Nature, for reasons unknown, directs electrons where she wants. If you are a right hand shaver and one day you see your mirror image right hand shaving your chin you’ll know that your parity conservation is absent.

As we have seen with animate matter, size is not a limiting factor to intelligence, even a virus seems to be endowed with it as it can evade some clever molecules that are built to catch them. Living creatures are made of atoms, as are inanimate substances. When I die, Nick will be dead but my body cannot be destroyed, the atoms of its construction will be used elsewhere, in plants, worms or the building of a star. Yet, when I lived, the atoms that formed the molecules of my brain were changed every month or so but my memory, activated by an endless stream of new atoms over all the years did not forget impressions of sixty or more years ago. These atoms are the same wee chunks of matter that are found in any bit of inanimate matter. “Facts are all we have,” said Richard Feynman. Of course, molecules are constituted by vast amounts of atoms and each molecule is of an irreducible complexity but living molecules wear out. Atoms do not and if our notions about the formation of the universe are anywhere near correct, today the same quantity of atoms is around as 14-15 billion years ago.

All those atoms were dispersed suddenly from a tiny bubble during the big bang we’re told, as the known facts seem to lead to that presumption. But already in the 1930’s, measurements by astronomers indicated that we saw only about 15% of all the mass in the universe and to explain the behaviour of stars and galaxies, an unseen and immeasurable mass had to be around to the tune of 85% of all matter. No one knows whether this mass is formed of atoms or particles but it carries great energy.

Google dark matter or energy, don’t ask me.

All I can tell you that I have a clever friend who is beginning to learn how to use some of this energy; he manages to charge a car battery from a much smaller battery and only dark energy can explain this phenomenon.

Let’s get back to the few facts we have. Since that primeval explosion of the big bang, scientists have worked out that a universe in which we live could not have been constructed, as there were not enough atoms to go around. Galaxies, stars and planets could not have clotted together and the universe would have resembled something like a cloud of hydrogen molecules. Discovery of dark mass has modified this view and now we have a whole bunch of theories to tell us how stars were made and how all the elements were formed in these furnaces.

Of course, most religions also have their explanations how the universe was put together by and for the glory of a god or a whole bunch of them. Some of these descriptions are not any crazier than a number of scientific hypotheses. There’s no reason to prefer a big bang theory over the Bushman’s belief of our origins, to my mind both are just as credible or incredible.

We have only one certainty: That without an unbelievable amount of flukes, chance happenings and magical hazards, the universe and life as we know it would not have happened. But it happened, we can see it. What we can see is matter that seems to be driven by a purpose as if the particles that make up this matter, somehow know what to do to make a whole. We can forget about knowing how life started on this planet but once a beginning was made, oxygen made itself available from the compounds in which it was bound to further life’s possibilities. Already, before life was present, water, which is the gaseous combination of oxygen and hydrogen, decided for no known chemical reason to expand its molecules close to freezing temperatures in order that ice would float on water.

Oxygen is a corrosive gas, it attacks a lot of metals and if our planet had a bit too much in its atmosphere the world would be on fire and, if not quite enough, we would be dead. We don’t know whether Gaia controls the amount or if the element itself does it. Also, it seems very probable that a lot of life would not have been possible on our planet if a layer of ozone had not established itself in the stratosphere to protect this vulnerable life against killing ultra violet sunlight. Were we just lucky or was there some innate intelligence at work that caused oxygen atoms that normally live in pairs to pick up another partner to form a manège à trois in the shape of ozone. And, that this gas establishes itself at precisely the right height to exercise its beneficial function. Could the seductive ladies, Hazard and Chance have worked this out for Gaia’s well being?

Many religions ask a great deal of work from their gods in order to see to the fate of humanity because the priests of these beliefs assure their followers that they are being looked after from birth to after death. Seven bloody billion of us!

However, compared to this hypothesis, what science asks us to believe is still more preposterous. The totality of the Universe with her galaxies, black holes, dark energy, supernovae, quasars, in the middle of which an unusual planet has managed to organize such a colossal amount of well-ordered life that, despite being part of that life we know but a tiny fraction of it, all that, I repeat, is the result of the two voluptuous ladies, Chance and Hazard.

From a tiny bubble erupted a tremendous bang and, against expectations, formed agglomerations that because of their mass created nuclear fires like our sun. In these furnaces, from hydrogen atoms, were born all the elements we know and that we carry around in our bodies in precise quantities.

And a fluke was the cause of it!

Somehow that strains my credibility.

It’s not surprising that many people choose gods over a fluke; religion makes more sense than this chance theory but making sense depends on the mindset of the beholder. Not so long ago great philosophers speculated for hundreds of years how many angels could dance on a pinhead. Other people began to discover mathematics and, a few hundred years later, botanists found out that plants and trees were way ahead in this field as their shapes and seed positioning went according to precise algebraic equations.

If, for a moment, we could separate human behaviour from the rest of this planet’s functioning, we would find that all happenings, away from the human sphere, are driven by intelligent enterprise. Whatever you investigate, soon you will find trace of intelligence, the bits and pieces fit too well together as could have been occasioned by mere chance or hazard.

To my mind, one hypothesis needs auscultation: All matter is endowed with a sense of intelligence or a drive to fulfil a purpose. Matter, animate or inanimate, atom or particle, creates intelligent designs to form a functioning whole. And as we still don’t know what dark matter or energy is despite it being about 85% of the universe’s total mass, possibly it hides a cosmic consciousness that explains the intelligent design of our irreducibly complex molecules.

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One Response to Cosmic Consciousness.

  1. Jack says:

    Now you are talking,and now I don’t have to wonder if you are going religeous, now you didn’t leave anything up in the air.
    Nicely done Nick.

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