© 2017 Vernon Miles Kerr
If a supreme intelligence created our Universe it deliberately gave its creation limits. Things set in motion tend to slow down. Heat tends to cool. Living beings are born, thrive, grow and then, as they age, begin to deteriorate, slow down and die. Whole species reach a peak population then begin to go extinct. Gases coalesce, their mutual gravity compacts the gases into stars, continually increasing heat and compaction until they either reach a breaking point, exploding into another cloud of dust and gases, or simply cool down to an invisible mass of matter waiting to be sucked into another star or black hole. Even, what are to us, the most incomprehensible distances, masses and time periods, are still temporary and limited.
Into this temporary Cosmos, the hypothetical Creator put at least one species of beings on one planet who could observe it, wonder at it and speculate about why it exists. The author of this treatise would be one of those creatures. The one planet, obviously, would be Earth. Our species, which we call “Human Beings” or “humans,” seems to have been given by creation, or Nature, if you will, an insatiable curiosity about its own origins. We appear to have evolved from simpler versions of ourselves, judging by the archeological and paleontological artifacts we unearth. At which “upgrade” did we gain this curiosity? We wonder about the short duration of our lives, in which we spend an inordinate amount of time just being educated to the point—for some people—of having a deep understanding of the physics involved in the creation, only to die a few years later. This apparently wasteful process of educating then dying causes us to speculate that our experiences and education do not die with us, but somehow continue on in some other, invisible (to us) cosmos or plane of existence.
“Nature abhors a vacuum,” wrote Rabelais, and so does the human. He and she especially abhor unanswered questions about our origins—to the point of creating stories, legends and myths about it. Anthropologists have encountered this propensity, universally, on all of Earth’s continents. Suspending disbelief about these myths, then developing this suspension into rock-solid belief, or “Faith,” ostensibly fills the vacuum. But once beliefs are solidified in that manner, curiosity dies. All of the big questions have been answered; there is no longer a need to worry about it. The vastness, unpredictability and complexity of the Cosmos are boiled down into an easily digestible bolus.
In order to avoid this intellectual dead-end, the scientist must either be an agnostic, an atheist or, like Einstein, having Faith in an intelligent creator but not subscribing to any of the myths and legends of humanity—even those of his own Hebrew ancestors.
One can only hope that our experience and knowledge, gained while walking the boards of this temporary stage, live on in some other realm; but in the meantime, we continue gathering knowledge, little bits of data, which we pass on to the younger generation by our interminable teaching and learning and our insatiable vacuum of curiosity.
In Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the character Brick posits, “Well, they say nature hates a vacuum, Big Daddy.” To which Big Daddy replies,
“That’s what they say, but sometimes I think that a vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with.”