In the resent news mechanical science has shown us another wonderful sight; the fulfillment of a great curiosity, the bright face of Pluto.
Truly a great marvel, and a great achievement; and I, like everyone else, have enjoyed the view.
However, every once in a while we need to demystify the physical/empirical sciences. While we often look to them as great harbingers of objective truth, a good portion of it is all in the presentation.
Let’s face it; we all got excited over a very big rock (or very small, according to your perspective) circling around a great big fire ball. Empty, lifeless.
I love watching all these Discovery channel presentations about the universe with all these high tech CGI animations and cool sound effects with the voice of Neil deGrasse or Steven Hawkings in the background. It’s all very entertaining; transporting you to another world. Every once in a while, though, you just have to step back and realize, “Nice presentation, but it’s all a bunch of lifeless objects floating around in the vast tracks of silent nothingness.”
In a way, it's all sort of a new astrology, giving lifeless objects charismatic powers.
Man, I just threw cold water on everything; death to discovery and wonder! No, that’s not where I want that reflection to go. What I do want to point out is that Pluto (or any of these objects) has no mystical quality in itself. What is truly magical is the encounter between the object and the knower (Us!). What is the point of the whole of creation if it is not known? Is it not more about us than about Pluto?
The knower, conscious life. Recently there was a story of a certain Seth Farlane dedicating 100 million to discover intelligent life on another planet. It’s all good fun; that would be a really cool day when we discover this life from another planet. Hollywood has been giving us this dream, and this night mare, ever since “War of the Worlds.” However, we are all so eager to meet this new life from another planet, but not the guy from the other side of the border. We’re all hoping that this new life from another planet will give us this incredible technology that will “save us,” but we are in dread of the new life coming from the womb because of “over population.” Strange, new creatures already exist here on this planet’s surface but, like the story of Genesis, “he gave them all names but none of them proved to be a suitable partner.”
What does it matter if a man gained the whole universe but lost its very soul?
We far too easily surrender to the empirical sciences more authority than they actually have.
When a pen leaves my desk it falls to the ground. The standard response to “Why does a pen fall to the ground?” is the word “Gravity.” Seemingly, by this great word, Newton enlightened us all. Awe, yes, gravity! Gravity, however, is just a word to describe a phenomenon. Newton measured the phenomenon and the conditions necessary for it to happen, but he did not tell us why it happens. Material science can never tell us why things happen, but we often lose track of that. It comes up with strange mystical names like “Quarks,” “Radium,” “Plasma,” all to describe different bits of moving stuff. Material sciences can only describe and measure what is already.
While it is wonderful to behold science as it gives us new gadgets, light shows, and pain killers; science often has the effect of a blender on our experience of reality; reducing everything to ever increasingly smaller pits of stuff. This is because the nature of matter is to be divisible; always in search of another smaller particle to tell us “why?” Instead of simply admiring and knowing the beauty of the apple we stick it in the blender in order to “really” get to know it and we end up with mush.
“Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee.” Augustine
In the absolutism of science we have so often been so enamored by shiny things and big words that we have reduced the entire human experience to impulses, chemicals, and electrical wiring. What will it matter if we find life out there if the life down here is nothing more than a blob of tissue. While so engrossed in the stars above we have so easily forgotten the interior work of virtue, worship, and community. The stars up there are truly empty if the life down here means nothing.