I will always try to add an audio file at the bottom for those who prefer to listen to my posts.
I'd love to say that my title represents the first time for humans to be looking at the skies and asking that question. But, full disclosure. One such example exists in Polynesian myth in the islands of the Pacific. The idea of Supreme Deity manifests in divinities that Māori people call Rangi and Papa, Native Hawaiians Kāne, the Tongans and Samoans Tagaloa, and the peoples of the Society Islands call Ta'aroa. A native poetic definition of the Creator relates: "He was; Taaroa was his name; he abode in the void. No earth, no sky, no men. Taaroa calls, but naught answers, and alone existing, he became the universe. The props are Taaroa; the rocks are Taaroa; the sands are Taaroa; it is thus he himself is named."
I do feel a little like the Māoris
Originally, meaning when humans began to think about the world around them, something we suspect other animals do not do, we were mystified by everything around us. The rain, snow, wind, earthquakes, floods, you name it. They all scared the crap out of us, and we had no inkling of how any of this came to be or how to prevent it happening again.
As we struggled to understand the unfathomable world in which we lived, we concluded there was a higher power, or a bunch of higher powers, who were pulling the strings of our existence, deciding how and when we died, when the next tsunami would wipe out civilization along the coast, when crops would flourish and babies be born, and a host of other mysteries of life. Over time, the multiple gods were boiled down to a single God for a host of reasons, although cultures remain today that hold on to the extra gods guiding our existence. Some of those actually look like a bit of fun, like in India.
Along came the Age of Enlightenment or the Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason. That was as an intellectual and philosophical movement that occurred in Europe, especially Western Europe, in the 17thand 18th centuries, with global influences and effects. The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on the value of human happiness, as opposed to some religious teachings that we had to suffer to go to our reward. The pursuit of knowledge was obtained by reason, the evidence of the senses, and ideals such as natural law, liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state.
The Enlightenment was preceded by the Scientific Revolution and the work of Francis Bacon and John Locke, among others. Philosophers and scientists of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies. The ideas of the Enlightenment undermined the authority of the monarchy and religious officials and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The central doctrines of the Enlightenment were individual liberty and religious tolerance, in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the power of religious authorities. The Enlightenment was marked by an increasing awareness of the relationship between the mind and the everyday media of the world, and by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism, the explanation of complex life-science processes and phenomena in terms of the laws of physics and chemistry. Combined with increased questioning of religious orthodoxy, the line of demarcation was drawn between science and theology.
Given the resistance by both governing bodies and religion as demonstrated in the 15th and 16th centuries that gave us doctrines like the reformation where the church, over the centuries, had become deeply involved in the political life of Western Europe, more liberal thinkers had to tread carefully. The resulting intrigues and political manipulations, combined with the church’s increasing power and wealth, contributed to the bankrupting of the church as a spiritual force.
For the last 500 years, science has pushed through ignorance and the mysteries of life with discoveries that have amazed and informed humanity about the world in which we live, our solar system, our very bodies, and the entire universe to a degree. At the same time, religion has, for the most part, remained stagnate and rooted in ancient myths and beliefs. Religion doggedly continues to rely on the idea that and all powerful and omnipotent entity as the creator of all we can see. It seems to this writer that religion is slowly losing its grip on the imagination of man. Religion depends on imagination rather than fact.
Now, along comes the Webb telescope. A device that has suddenly opened up new mysteries, and revealed to us how much more vast our universe is than we could ever imagine. And this is just the start. First, Webb is just beginning the task of opening our eyes and minds to some of the secrets of the universe. We are looking back billions of years into the past at stars, galaxies, black holes, and a plethora of things that we don't yet understand. From webbtelescope.org, "The latest image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows a portion of the dense center of our galaxy in unprecedented detail, including never-before-seen features astronomers have yet to explain."
This suggests to me that we are, in some ways, back where we started. We are just learning how little we do know about the universe in which we live. Like the ancient humans bereft of scientific knowledge and reaching for almost paranormal fantasies to explain the world they knew, we find that many of our assumptions about our universe are suspect, at best.
Is The Webb Telescope Looking At God? Is the universe the God we have so long wanted to believe in? It seems to me that when we talk about creation, we must look at the universe. It is obvious that all we can see, feel, smell, and touch has come from the vast space we call the universe. All the elements, gasses, minerals, etc. that make up our planet, our solar system, and life itself on Earth are all out there in the vastness of the universe. The universe is this violent, churning, a constantly creating and destructive force that has given birth to unbelievable galaxies and solar system, including our own. Has it produced other planets like ours where we might find human-like life forms? I tend to think those are long odds. Some life forms, undoubtedly, but humanoid? I have some doubts.
I've always relied on the probability of events happening. There is something called the Infinite Monkey Theorem. If you set a monkey down in front of a typewriter or computer to randomly begin banging on the keys, Would it eventually produce the complete works of William Shakespeare? What are the odds? If you took all the parts for an automobile engine and laid them out on a table for a monkey to play with, would that monkey ever assemble them into a working engine?
We have in the universe, a billion, and trillions, and whatever the hell the next big number might be of elements and gasses and energy, all of which have the potential to create life as we know it on this planet. In what appears to be the chaos of creation of entities in the universe, what are the odds of all the same elements coming together that came together to create our solar system, and then our planets at just the right distance from its star to permit life as we know it to exist?
And finally, talking about what we don't know is the fact that what we are looking at in our universe is billions of years old. The light coming to us from the cosmos was generated billions of years ago. What we are looking at today may not exist anymore. And, some of what we are seeing may have evolved into something very different.
We are, in many ways, as ignorant and confused as were our ancestors a few hundred thousand years ago. But, I think what we are learning today will continue the social decay of religion as we realize how vast and powerful our universe really is. The power to create life or anything else that humanity has attributed to gods over the millennia would seem to be the power of our universe, or universes if there are multiples of them, not of any one omnipotent being.