Cosmology is a term used by anthropologists, philosophers, scholars of religion and theologians to denote an individual or group understanding of the world, the universe and beyond. This “map” may or may not include an account of creation.
In contemporary science the term cosmology denotes the creation, structure and evolution of the universe, as with the Big Bang theory.
For all their social legitimacy and status, from a spiritual standpoint modern scientific cosmologies can fall short by ignoring the possibilities of hellish, purgatorial, astral and heavenly realms that could permeate and interact with life on Earth and, indeed, life throughout the universe (assuming life exists beyond our planet).
Perhaps most scientific cosmologists in the 21st century are so focused on their way of seeing the world that there’s little or no room in their hearts, minds and souls to experience numinosity. If they did, they’d probably revise their theories to make them more comprehensive.
Cosmology arguably bears a direct relation to ethics. But these two spheres of inquiry are usually kept apart by philosophers, scholars and theologians. This arbitrary separation of cosmology and ethics has its pitfalls. For instance, a dominant cosmology that excludes the importance of numinosity is probably not going to seriously consider persons claiming to experience numinosity. As a result, persons of numinosity might be marginalized and discriminated against.
While many may naively suppose that science pins down truth, a look at the range of current scientific cosmologies (note: plural) will hopefully dispel that belief.
Instead of truth, what we arguably find is a group of stories, not entirely unlike the ancient myths that preceded them. True, these more recent stories are based on scientific (i.e. measurable and replicable) observation.¹ But their fragmentary nature highlights the fact that human beings cannot really grasp the whole. Not that there’s any harm in trying. But when researchers lose their sense of humility and start overreaching the limits of their observations, all sorts of problems can arise.
For an excellent list of the latest scientific imaginings, see Historical Cosmologies (the latter entries in the chart). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmology. And for a brief timeline see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_cosmology.
¹ At least, this is what we’re told. In reality fraud and deceit can creep into the halls of science, just any other human endeavor. See Broad and Wade, Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science.
- The Vertical Cosmological Argument and the Fallacy of Composition (humblesmith.wordpress.com)
- Modern Cosmology: Interactive Computer Simulations … (physicsforme.wordpress.com)
- Einstein’s “biggest blunder” beats dark energy in explaining expansion of the Universe (gizmag.com)
- “A” is for axion (Alphabet of Cosmology) (catch26.wordpress.com)
- Astronomers have found the largest structure in the universe (theverge.com)
- Stellar performances finally gain the limelight (newscientist.com)
- The Kalam Argument – Reddening the faces of atheists everywhere (ferlans.wordpress.com)
- Dynamic, dark energy in an accelerating universe (spacedaily.com)
- Astronomers discover the universe’s largest known structure (slashgear.com)
- What is the purpose of the Universe? Here is one possible answer. (io9.com)
Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Polish scientist and astronomer who specialized in mathematics and optics. He is remembered mostly for advancing the idea that the sun is at he center of the solar system, not the Earth (On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, 1543).
This was somewhat controversial because Ptolemy‘s theory – that the Earth is the center of the universe – predominated at the time.
Not surprisingly, prominent Churchmen wanted to stamp out his theory. One of such tried to apply the philosophical arguments of St. Thomas Aquinas to do so (name not really worth remembering but if curious, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus#Controversy).
The German poet Goethe had this to say about Copernicus’s lasting influence in the history of ideas:
Of all discoveries and opinions, none may have exerted a greater effect on the human spirit than the doctrine of Copernicus.
Copernicus wasn’t exactly the first to come up with a heliocentric theory, however. See http://earthpages.wordpress.com/?s=+Aristarchus+of+Samos and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus#Predecessors.
- Nicolaus Copernicus’s revolutionary 1543 view of the… (exp.lore.com)
- 100 Diagrams That Changed the World | Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org)
- Copernicus: new name for European Earth Observation Programme (ec.europa.eu)
- Spiritualism – a Copernican Revolution (bhavanajagat.com)
- Portraits of Scientists & Philosophers on Baroque Title Pages (longstreet.typepad.com)
- The Scientific Revolution and the State of Christianity (hendriekusr.wordpress.com)
- The Sun (planets.org.uk)
Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-93) was a pioneering French neurologist and psychologist born in Paris. His work has had a lasting impact in both of those fields, to the extent that he’s been called the “Napoleon of the neuroses.”
Charcot worked at the widely respected Salpêtrière teaching clinic in Paris where he made important contributions to neurology. He’s best known, however, for his groundbreaking work on hypnotism and is often mentioned as one of Sigmund Freud‘s early instructors. Charcot’s studies on hysteria fascinated Freud, who in turn developed his own theory of hysteria.
Paving the way for a more biologically based type of psychiatry, Charcot discovered that brain damage to certain regions of the cerebral cortex are linked to speech impairment and epilepsy. This supported the seminal work of the French physician, Paul Broca, suggesting that different parts of the body are controlled by correspondingly different regions of the cerebral cortex.
- After Mesmer (Part 2 of 2) (drvitelli.typepad.com)
- The history of Traumatic Stress (traumasupport.wordpress.com)
- Study solves birth and migration mysteries of cortex’s powerful inhibitors, ‘chandelier’ cells (medicalxpress.com)
- Einstein’s intelligence was due to unusual features in his brain (dailymail.co.uk)
Carbon dating is a scientific method for trying to determine the age of organically based archaeological discoveries.
The process hinges on measuring the radioactive isotope (carbon-14) that is present in all terrestrial life. At death the isotope gradually decays. So the remaining amount in a given artifact can give us a picture about its age. More precisely, the ratio of remaining carbon-14 to stable, unchanging carbon (carbon-12) is used to try to determine a sample’s age.
I say “try” because the process is not as exact as some cheesy educational books or docudramas will tell us. The buzzword “carbon-dating” is often used to apparently prove scientific theories, but many laypersons are unaware of the high degree of controversy (and inaccuracy) surrounding this process. Like most, if not all, of science, there’s room for bias and interpretation. And this is hardly surprising because science is a human enterprise to begin with.
The idea of carbon dating has become so much a part of popular culture that it appears in science fiction and fantasy films like Prometheus,¹ where carbon samples are used to determine the age of alien substances discovered on a distant planet.
Related Posts » Archaeology
Image source (immediate right) and helpful article
- Core sample sends carbon clock farther back in time : Nature News & Comment (nature.com)
- New advancement for carbon dating found in Japanese lake (japandailypress.com)
- Carbon Dating Gets an Update (science.slashdot.org)
- The problems with Carbon-14 Dating (lambfollower.wordpress.com)
- Bosnia Pyramid Carbon Dated 25 Thousand Years Old (rclvideolibrary.com)
- Scientists: Carbon Dating Could Help Identify Victims Who Washed Ashore At Gilgo Beach (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Dating of New Zealand Wreck Suggests Visitors Pre-Dated Cook (sott.net)
- The Most Important Records For Dating Old Objects Were Just Found In A Japanese Lake (businessinsider.com)
- Reconciling the Conflicts between Science and Religion (realintent.org)
A Dogma is a doctrine or a creed that can refer to religious or non-religious belief. The word “dogma” comes from the Greek dogma (“opinion” or “that which seems good”).¹ Dogma often refers to beliefs articulated and endorsed by the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church, apparently derived from divine revelation, and to be accepted by believers despite the lack of conventional scientific evidence to support them.
But the word dogma has also been applied within the philosophy of science. For instance, Willard Quine wrote a seminal paper, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, which levels a devastating critique of those who uncritically accept truth claims made by scientists.²
In everyday usage, the word dogma can refer to any kind of authoritarian claim that demands or depends on unquestioning belief. For instance, we have dogmas about healthy eating habits, normal sleep patterns, the efficacy of some green products, what constitutes intelligence and success, to name a few.
¹ S. G. F. Brandon (ed.) Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 1971, pp. 244-245.
² Unfortunately, if someone is callow or careless enough to be uncritically blinded by science, they probably won’t take the time to try to understand what Quine is saying.
- Mary Ever-Virgin: Suggested Reading For ++ Mueller (mundabor.wordpress.com)
- I Am Not Looking for a Substitute Dogma (atheistrev.com)
- Ideas, Not Dogmas (murph929.wordpress.com)
- Archbishop Mueller Introduces Himself. (mundabor.wordpress.com)
- The necessity of the Assumption: Five reasons… (catholicexchange.com)
- The Ten Dogmas Of Modern Science (wariscrime.com)
- One Dogma For Another (dangeroustalk.net)
- Archbishop Mueller Still Hasn’t Explained Anything (mundabor.wordpress.com)
- The Ten Dogmas Of Modern Science: Rupert Sheldrake (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- Karma or Dogma? (justinhohn.typepad.com)
Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a French natural scientist, Jesuit priest and philosopher. Many of his ideas were opposed by the Catholic Church, especially his view of creation, which the Roman Curia believed distorted the idea of original sin forwarded by St. Augustine. And some of his works were banned from publication during his lifetime.
However, de Chardin did earn academic honors for work in geology and palaeontology, and by the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) some of his ideas were influential as the Church tried to reform many of its teachings for the 20th century.
In Le Phénomène humaine (The Phenomenon of Man) de Chardin combines a scientific outlook with his religious beliefs by suggesting that humanity is evolving towards a state of spiritual perfection. Explicit to his theory is the notion of the Omega Point, a transcendent being (a.k.a. God) who draws creation toward itself.
Related Posts » Charles Darwin
- Why in the World Would I “Beam Love” to the Dark Cabal? | Activist Awake (2012indyinfo.com)
- Writer of Destiny: Pierre Teilhard De Chardin (writingyourdestiny.com)
- Slow Work (thedistinctdot.com)
- ‘The Search for Spirituality: Our Global Quest for Meaning and Fulfilment’ by Ursula King (evolutionarymystic.wordpress.com)
- Annual Report of the Laboratory of Evolution, 2011-2012 (labofevolution.wordpress.com)
- Evidence Of a Cyclical Universe Cemented in Love (veteranstoday.com)
- e.o. wilson’s faith (3quarksdaily.com)
Charles Robert Darwin (1809-82) was an English naturalist whose The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection of 1859 proposed a view of evolution in which “natural selection” determines which species survive and which perish.
In opposition to Larmarck, Darwin believed that evolutionary changes were the result of mutations.¹ New species that happened to survive in physical environments (which also changed) replaced those species that did not.
For many followers of Darwin there is no master or divine plan guiding evolution. In 1871 he wrote The Descent of Man which traced, according to the theory, mankind back to the anthropoids. The clarity of his exposition and the force of his ideas have influenced practically every aspect of modern society.
The Welsh naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, independently conceived the idea of “survival of the fittest” around the same time as Darwin. Recent challenges to this view are still deemed quite suspect, but postmodern, New Age and religious trends towards seeking alternative ways of viewing evolution continue to challenge the current scientific paradigm, which ironically has come to resemble a religious belief.²
Pope Benedict XVI has supported the idea of Theistic Design, a view that some believe is similar to Intelligent Design. Benedict, however, questions aspects of evolutionary theory, arguing that it’s not truly scientific and cannot explain an implied rationality of the process it outlines.
¹ The following outlines how Darwin’s understanding of mutations differed from those of today.
Today, most scientists regard the term “mutation” as a description of a change in an individual gene, and more precisely as some minute alteration of the DNA of that gene, especially a nucleotide substitution. But the idea of mutation has changed considerably from the pre-Mendelian concepts of Darwin’s generation, who viewed “fluctuating variations” as the raw material on which evolution acted, to today’s up-to-the-minute genomic context of mutation. Source: http://www.cshlpress.com/default.tpl?action=full&–eqskudatarq=911&typ2=hpl
² Few realize how the unavoidably biased interpretation of experimental results can shape our worldview, in both the social and the so-called “hard” sciences. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimenter%27s_bias
- Charles Darwin (articles4friends.com)
- Darwin’s Doubt: Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (Kenneth Samples) (rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com)
- Turkey: Creationists Want To Airbrush Darwin Out Of Evolutionary Picture (eurasiareview.com)
- Charles Darwin (speculativefictionweblog.wordpress.com)
- Misrepresenting Darwin (choiceindying.com)
- What Darwin didn’t know (rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com)
- Go On a Virtual Journey with Charles Darwin (freetech4teachers.com)
- Biologist and Atheist Richard Dawkins on Charles Darwin – Brian Gallagher – Santa Barbara’s Independent (richarddawkins.net)
- South Korean Textbooks Embrace Creationism (newsfeed.time.com)
- The Pirates! With Charles Darwin! (freethoughtblogs.com)
Eratosthenes (276-194 BCE) was an Ancient Greek who apparently was the first to calculate the circumference of the Earth with remarkable accuracy using math that involved measuring the angles of shadows.
He also invented the idea of longitude and latitude, the leap day, and may have calculated the distance from the earth to the sun.
- History of Mathematics (Btelus) (spacezilotes.wordpress.com)
In physics, the standard international unit of energy [Greek en (in) + ergon (work) = energeia] is the joule (J), this being the work done when a force of one newton travels through a distance of one meter. The rate of energy conversion is called ‘power‘.
One of the scientific definitions of energy is “the capacity to do work.” So any transformation of energy is, in a very real sense, work.
This scientific understanding of energy has profound implications for current definitions and popular opinions about the so-called and often stigmatized “unemployed” and “underemployed.” In fact, every living creature on Earth works by virtue of its existence. The ancient Greek pre-Socratic thinker, Heraclitus, put it this way:
Even sleepers and dreamers are workers and collaborators in what goes on in the universe.
In addition, in different world religions meditation and contemplation are understood as the most demanding forms of bodily and spiritual work that a human being can do. So in Catholicism, individuals engaged in a life of contemplative prayer are said to cooperate with the “work of salvation.”
However, Christian fundamentalists, most Protestants and many Catholics just don’t get this. They seem to operate on a more active, materialistic level than the deep contemplative. So while a contemplative can have a pretty good idea of the more socially oriented work that the visibly active Christian does, the latter doesn’t understanding nor appreciate the work that a contemplative does. To make matters worse, contemplatives are usually subject to scorn, ridicule and other forms of psycho-spiritual abuse. As difficult as this is for the contemplative, they also know that overcoming these abuses in a loving way is part of the work that they’re called to do.¹
¹ One of the best examples of this dynamic is found throughout St. Faustina Kowalska’s Divine Mercy Diary. Here the saint outlines how even her Catholic superiors, who should have known better, treated her very poorly and harshly, causing her much pain. And the best example of this kind of unselfish love is arguably found in Jesus’ words while hanging on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a German, Swiss and US physicist, born in Ulm, Bavaria. Einstein became a Swiss national in 1901 and held the position of examiner at the National Patent Office (1902-5). During this time he published papers on theoretical physics. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on the photoelectric effect (i.e. the observation that electrons are released from specific metals when exposed to ultraviolet light), which spearheaded quantum theory.
Einstein is best known for his special theory of relativity (1905) and general theory of relativity (1916). He also produced the equation, e=mc² where ‘e’ is energy, ‘m’ is matter, and ‘c’ is the speed of light, which is a constant.
Professor at Zürich and Prague, and Director of Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute, Einstein escaped persecution from the Nazis by emigrating to the USA, where he lectured at Princeton in 1934. He gained US citizenship and a professorship at Princeton in 1940. After World War II, Einstein advocated international regulation of the atomic bomb. In 1952 he was courted by Israel to become its second President but declined the offer.
Einstein has been accused of plagiarizing from several sources. He himself says that he didn’t have time to fully reference some of the ideas that contributed to this theories.
- General Theory of Relativity (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Albert Einstein Was A Genius But Also A Terrible Husband… (since1910.com)
- Albert Einstein by Frieda Wishinsky. (encinolibrary.wordpress.com)
- Inside The Office Of Albert Einstein (gizmodo.com.au)
- Happy Birthday, Einstein (Part 4) (letsplaymath.net)
- The Myth of Matter, p. 7 (antennaguru.wordpress.com)
- Einstein’s explanation is better than my – compare my recent blog – but, of course…. (akeeckerwall.wordpress.com)
- Inside the Office of Albert Einstein (gizmodo.co.uk)
- Two things you can learn reading Albert Einstein’s personal correspondence (boingboing.net)
- Inside the Office of Albert Einstein [Image Cache] (gizmodo.com)