Is The Cosmos God?
Cosmos is the name we've given the universe,<break time='1s'/> or should that be our universe? More about that later. The philosopher Pythagoras first used the term kosmos for the order of the universe. In Greek, it's written as κόσμος, meaning "order, good order, orderly arrangement." In English, it is spelled with a c. Cosmology is the study of the cosmos and, in its broadest sense, covers various approaches: scientific, religious, and philosophical.
One thing is sure; the cosmos is indescribably large, and we have yet to determine if it even has an end. Physical cosmology has achieved a consensus Standard Model (SM) based on extending the local physics governing gravity and the other forces to describe the overall structure of the universe and its evolution. According to the SM, the universe has evolved over billions of years from an extremely high-temperature early state by expanding, cooling, and developing structures at various scales, such as galaxies and stars.
Before the Copernican Revolution, the Ptolemaic system, also known as the geocentric model, was widely accepted. This put the Earth at the center of the universe, with the sun and other planets revolving around the Earth in an epicyclic orbit (a circle in which a planet moves and which has a center that is itself carried around at the same time on the circumference of a larger circle).
Humans have and continue to insist that our species is the center of all things because the current God created us, or the previous gods before we condensed all the gods into one; that is still our core belief. And, since we were created in His image, we have endowed ourselves with god-like qualities that justify our self-centered view of all things and how we behave.
As science has evolved and explained away more and more of the centuries-old mysteries that plague humankind, it becomes harder and harder for religions to tell their followers that this cosmos is the work of some supernatural spirit or being. Our latest scientific discovery expands our knowledge of the cosmos, with more to come. Recently, a team of scientists collaborated to give us a view of a black hole.
What is truly amazing is the size of this sucker. About 27,000 light-years away, and some four million times the mass of our sun, surrounded by swirling super-hot gasses, this thing boggles the mind. Four million times the size of our sun would make this black hole about 3,457,800,000,000 miles across; that's almost 3.458 billion miles across. It sets in the center of our milky way galaxy, which dwarfs this black hole in size.
The distance from one side to another side of the milky way galaxy is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 km (that's about .62 quintillion miles). That means if you travel at the speed of light, 186,282 miles per second, you are zipping along at 670,615,200 miles per hour, and it will still take 100,000 light-years to cross the galaxy. I know that's wonky, math-centric, and maybe boring, but we have to establish some perspective here. We're talking really freaking huge stuff here.
Astronomers think there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe besides ours; however, the exact number is unknown. We're not sure how big our damn universe is or where it ends, or if it even ends.
As they say in those late-night commercials, "But, wait! There's more!" No less than Steven Hawking, shortly before he died, addressed the theory that has been around a while that there may be multiple universes. His argument is getting serious attention at Neil deGrasse Tyson's cocktail parties.
So, why am I babbling about all this shit? I am attempting to explain that no god, no superhuman entity, could have created all this. Remember, back when we had all those multiple gods, we thought our world was it; there wasn't anymore. We were the be-all and end-all. We thought the sun and stars revolved around our planet, and we only inhabited about a quarter of our world then. We didn't even know how big the earth was.
Despite their lack of scientific discovery, our ancient ancestors understood there was complexity in even the tiny world they inhabited. True, most of it scared the crap out of people, but they were curious, and curious creatures demand reasons for events. While they had no concept of solar systems, galaxies, and certainly no clue of what a universe might be, they understood there were forces far more significant than themselves at play in their world. The strength of hurricane winds, blizzards, and earthquakes told them that there was a mighty power at work. They couldn't begin to conceive how the moon's gravity moves the oceans or how fast our earth is spinning, or about tectonic plates floating on a sea of molten rock.
To fill the knowledge vacuum that plagued our ancestors, they came up with gods; gods of fertility, gods for the weather, the sun, the moon, good gods, and angry gods, all to explain the mysteries that had us scratching our heads. If a baby died shortly after birth or was born with a club foot, they had no explanation except the gods. Perhaps they had angered a god, and they needed to sacrifice an animal to appease the god. This was their way of understanding the world they lived in.
They couldn't conceive of a universe, but they instinctively knew there were forces at work far greater than anything they knew or understood. With no concept of a solar system or universe, and being human, curious, and emotional, they blamed it all on invisible gods.
Fast forward to today. The evidence grows almost daily that we are still in the infancy of understanding our cosmos. If Hawking was right about multiple universes, we might have to start numbering or naming the cosmoses because we aren't the only ones here. This cosmos that we are such a teeny, teeny part of is the product of energies, elements, gravity, magnetism, and perhaps more things that we are still struggling to understand. A combination of physics, energy, and chance has formed our planet, solar system, galaxy, other galaxies, the universe, and perhaps more; it also made it possible for life as we know it to emerge on the space object we call earth.
I understand the hold that believing in a supreme being has on so many people, and I don't want to try to burst anyone's bubble any more than parents do when they feel it is time to tell their children the Easter Bunny or Santa Clause are fiction. The children will mature and understand that all those stories were fantasies that filled a space in their brains until facts and knowledge took over that space. It was a way of seeing the world that they didn't yet understand, and it served a purpose while their brain developed an understanding of their world through education.
We, adults, have to realize that a couple of factors are at work that control our existence as a species. One is the natural occurrences around us on our planet. At this point, we cannot prevent earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes that can devastate hundreds and thousands of our species. We can't control a giant meteor that might someday be heading toward our planet - it has happened in the past. We live in a potentially violent universe that we can't control, which can be scary.
While it may make some people feel good to burn incense, pray, engage in any number of philosophical or religious ceremonies, or, as some seem to prefer, ignore everything and hope it goes away, none of that is going to alter the course of history or prevent tragedies that are beyond our control.
But, there are things we can control. We are on a fast track to destroying our environment due to our headlong race for convenience, comfort, consumption, wealth, and entertainment. We cannot ignore the impact of almost 8 billion humans on the planet. But, we can control a large part of our existence and how we live. It will take action on the part of a majority of those 8 billion people to stop our headlong rush toward extinction and begin to reverse the harm we've done.
Religion and other psychological pursuits that alleviated both our curiosities and fears in the past have served their purpose in the evolution of the human species. It's time to think about retiring them to the museum of obsolescence in the same way we let go of the pagan gods and old practices like bleeding people to make them well.
We, humankind, must take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. It's our world and our species to save or destroy. We are in charge of our planet and all life on our planet. We need to embark on an intellectual, emotional, and social evolution away from fear, suspicion, and believing that Santa will come down the chimney and save us from ourselves; that has never happened and it never will happen.