The Big Bang Theory Revisited

Original Fiction by Ron L. Clayton

The esteemed minds gathered as usual to ponder, consider, discuss, and sometimes grumble deeply at each other. The group had been meeting from time out of mind, so they were quite familiar with one another. While they were quite familiar with each other, the various topics of discussion were so varied that they could still be surprised by how one member or another might approach the issue. And there were so many possible topics out of the vastness of all things that they never lacked for a topic to mull over, dissect, and generally try to get the better of one another.

Today’s topic was something of an old saw. They had been around and around the topic, arguing the possibilities, the flaws of perception, the essence of things, etc. But recently, one of the members had run a simulation based on certain far-from-settled assumptions. Everyone was now familiar with the simulation, and the room was buzzing with anticipation of the coming discussion.

The current leader called the group together. “Today’s topic is one with which everyone is quite familiar.” This was greeted with low chuckles from around the group. The leader smiled and nodded. “It seems that many of our discussions come back to this issue because the possibilities are always intriguing.

“And now our esteemed colleague has upped the ante, might we say, with a very sophisticated simulation. This is quite different from our normal means of analysis and raises many, many questions. Who would like to begin?

From several members, “Congratulations!”

All looked at the maker, who nodded in acknowledgement.

“How deep does it go? I delved into several moments, and each of the multitudinous creatures had numerous possible responses, each of which had several reasons and rationales many layers deep, and each moment held endless repercussions, depending upon which response was made, and even why that particular response was made.”

“Yes, almost endless possibilities represented in each and every moment!”

“No need to exaggerate, nothing is endless. We could chart each and every possibility.”

“Over the entire system, you would have to chart a minimum of ten to the twenty-third possibilities every moment, and that many the next moment for each of the possibilities the previous moment, and that many the next for the ten to the twenty-third times ten to the twenty-third of the previous moment. One could chart all possibilities, but you could never completely predict every outcome.”

“One could chart the major movements and drifts to see where it comes out, predict the overall outcome.”

“Yes, you could perhaps chart the over-arching, over-all outcomes. Perhaps. And then you would miss the little dramas happening on a much smaller level by individual actors. Part of the loveliness of the simulation is that while the whole system is beautiful, each of the sub-parts are equally so, and each of their parts, and each of those.“

“I agree. You could chart all the possibilities, eventually, but you could never perfectly predict. You could perhaps predict some overarching outcomes, but if you do so, you would not be accounting for events at more specific levels, and those could eventually undo the effectiveness of the general predictions. The final outcome could never be perfectly predicted. That is part of the wonder of it. So many possibilities, and while they could perhaps, all be charted and foreseen, one could never predict which possibilities would actually come to be.”

“And there is a value in that?” His answer came in the form of numerous sardonic glares from those who clearly thought there was. “Just because you do see value in the difficulty in predicting does not mean there really is one.”

“And just because you can find a reason to dismiss it doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.” The target of the last barb gave a sardonic smile and a nod. “Remember that the creatures in the simulation are acting with even less foresight than we have, and in this simulation we operate with much less than that to which we are accustomed.”

“Precisely. We rely on knowing the probable outcome of almost everything in our lives to a very high degree of probability. In the simulation, there is no certainty at all, for us or the creatures within.”

As if on cue, a small notification signal sounded. Two of the members suddenly seemed embarrassed. The current leader and the maker both sensed their discomfort and turned toward them, the rest of the group then redirecting their attention.

One of the two responded to the silent question. “We” he started, indicating the other embarrassed member, “realized early on that there was a great deal of uncertainty in the simulation. Since there has been so little uncertainty in our world for so long, it was intriguing. The mathematics alone was quite a challenge. So we began trying to predict the outcome of various situations. Then we began competing to see which of us could make more correct predictions. Then we began to make wagers on our predictions.”

The maker only smiled, but the current leader was aghast, as if a great faux pas had been committed.

“Apart from all that, it is so beautiful!”

“Is that what you all are going on and on about? A pretty picture?

“Admit it. Even you see the beauty in it. So much variety, subtlety, intensity.”

“Apart from the beauty of the physical, there are the beings who come to be conscious and self-aware.”

“And eventually become creatures yearning to be like us. Isn’t that sweet? Isn’t that a needed affirmation of our noble being! It is a model, a simulation! None of it is real!”

“All, the same, speaking of noble being, you have creatures making decisions, decisions that rule out other possibilities and set their course along a certain path. And they do this knowing that they can never even foresee all of the possible outcomes. They cannot even foresee all of the probable out comes.”

“It is a work of great beauty. On many, many levels.

“Here, here.”

“I want to revisit my question, how deep does it go? Are the creatures self-aware?

“What kind of question is that? It’s a model! A model based on calculations. Nothing more!”

“It is not just a model. It is a simulation. A simulation based on a very large number of possibilities and variables. Every moment the entire simulation could go an entirely different way. Creatures who have come out of that …”

“Are still not real!”

Perhaps, but at what point do they become real on some level?

“That is a totally meaningless question! The answer us never. It is a model, a simulation, whatever, it is an entire construct, a calculation, and that based on a myth.

“How can you say that? How, after such a demonstration of beauty and wonder and intrigue can you still call it a myth?”

“I can call it that because this demonstration, no matter how creative and novel,” nods to the maker, “no matter how delightfully intricate and detailed,” another body to the maker,” no matter how mesmerizing and entertaining,“ yet another nod to the creator, “proves nothing.”

“I move that we decree the model be kept in case the consciousness really might be conscious and sentient.”

“Do as you will. Even I can see the logic in that, though I still maintain it is logic based upon a myth. But no doubt it will provide us with much diversion and amusement and discussion for eons. It is a lovely answer to one of the greatest “What ifs?” of all our many and long discussions.

“Wrong, error-ridden, ridiculous, but lovely. It does not, however, change the basic problem in the least. A so called big bang is just an ‘if,’ or, rather, an ‘IF.’ Nothing more.

“The simulation has shown what might very well be the natural result if a big bang were possible. It is most mesmerizing and thought provoking, a tremendous congratulation and thanks to the maker. We will be debating this for a long, long time to come.

“But that changes nothing. What might happen, or even what most likely would happen after a big bang is not a proof there could ever be a big bang.

“You have still done nothing to make me believe in the Big Bang. Your mesmerizing, tantalizing model is based on the myth of the possibility of a big bang, and has done nothing to make me believe that a physical, temporal dimension could ever truly exist.”

 

(C) 2016 by Ron L Clayton

 

 

Is There a God? Does God Exist?

Is there a God? Does God exist? These questions have been significant, if not fundamental, in the search for ultimate reality since before the questions were first articulated. A brief survey of religious history demonstrates that these questions have been important even when not stated explicitly. What people mean by these questions and how they answer them can be significant.

I admit that when I am asked these questions my inclination is to answer “Yes.” But that is because of certain assumptions I am making. Assumptions that may, or may well not be warranted. When I answer these questions, I am assuming the meanings of certain words. And I am assuming that others know what I mean by those words.

The problem with assumed meanings is that they are just that: assumed, not articulated or clarified. Too many connotations, secondary meanings, not to mention personal meanings, are bound to creep in. When we use words assuming their meaning and that other folks mean the same thing we do by those word, the situation is rife with the possibility of miscommunication.

Dictionary.com defines connotation as:

Connotation
1. a. the associated or secondary meaning of a word or expression in addition to its explicit or primary meaning: A possible connotation of “home” is “a place of warmth, comfort, and affection.”

b. the act of connoting; the suggesting of an additional meaning for a word or expression, apart from its explicit meaning.

2. something suggested or implied by a word or thing, rather than being explicitly named or described: “Religion” has always had a negative connotation for me.

And as if that doesn’t complicate matters sufficiently, there is the technical definition from philosophical logic:

3. Logic. the set of attributes constituting the meaning of a term and thus determining the range of objects to which that term may be applied; comprehension; intension.

We need not look far for humorous – and sometimes not so humorous, even tragic – misunderstandings based upon assumed meanings of words. There are plenty of examples from interaction between spouses, parents and children, and from general life. Religious life is full of such misunderstandings as well as disagreements on terms.

In any communication we deal with the issues of assumed meanings, subconscious meanings, connotations, etc. When I make a statement or answer a question, I assume I know the meanings of the words I am using and that other people use the same meanings. That is not always the case.

When we ask “Is there a God?” or “Does God exist?” we must ask what one means by the term “God.” What does one assume is the nature of God? What images come to mind? We may think “God” is a universally understood term when in fact there are as many meanings as there are people. Any discussion of said existence must take into account these personal meanings and the experiences from which they arise.

Then, what does one mean by existence? To us it involves breathing, physical existence. But God is spirit, so we must ask what we mean by existence for whatever we mean by the word God. We understand – or think we understand – what it means when we talk about our existence or the existence of a physical object, but what does it mean to say that God exists?

“Is there a God?” Once again, we think we know what words mean and that they mean the same to everyone. But what does on mean by the word “Is?” I know that this raises images of certain impeachment proceedings and many related jokes, but it is a serious question. It was meant that way then and it certainly is in this context.

“Is” means the 3rd person singular present indicative of “be.” There are dozens of forms the verb “be” takes over first, second and third person and numerous specific time references. Then, “is” is a form of “be,” that is, to have being. What does it mean to have being? Being like a person? How so? Or a larger being? Just how does that work?

And we haven’t even gotten to the words “does” and “there,” which we won’t here because hopefully you have the idea.

I am sure that to many people this seems like merely playing with words, but it isn’t. Words have meaning and those meanings must be understood.

Depending on how you define these various terms, there are numerous gods that I do not believe in. An ultimate reality or concern is whatever a person centers their life around. And there a lot of ultimate realities, ultimate concerns that I do not accept as valid.

I consider a life genuinely centered on love, compassion, truth, reason, etc. to be centered on something worthy. However, greed, narcissism, hatred, etc. seem less worthy focuses for one’s life. And there are those who make these their ultimate concern.

Let me be a little more direct. I consider reason to be a worthy center of one’s life. Those who question the existence of God but genuinely try to live by reason may be very good people indeed. It depends on, well, you guessed it, personal connotations and meanings.

These questions have been around a long time, and probably have as many answers as people thinking about them. But words have meaning, and each of the words in these questions have an impact on the outcome and must be considered.

Thankfulness

Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is thank you, it will be enough.”

Think of what this presupposes. This assumes that someone has received something, that a gift or a goodness or a blessing has been recognized and appreciated. Recognized, appreciated and accepted. In Christian theological terms, this implies grace being given and received.

The theologian Paul Tillich spoke of “accepting our acceptance.” The fantasy writer Stephen R. Donaldson said that “accepting a gift honors the giver.”

To offer a prayer that is as simple as a heartfelt “Thank you” embraces all of these facets. It is at the center of Grace-full living: to recognize and accept grace in whatever form, and to be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The New Teacher

Retiring after 20 years, a United States Marine Corps gunnery sergeant took a new job as a high school teacher.

Just before the school year started, he injured his back. He was required to wear a plaster cast around his upper torso. Fortunately the cast fit under his shirt & sport coat quite well and wasn’t noticeable.

On the first day of class, he found himself assigned to the toughest students in the entire school. The smart-aleck punks, having already heard that the new teacher was a retired Marine, were leery of him and he knew they would undoubtedly be testing his toughness and level of discipline immediately.

Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, the new teacher opened a couple of windows wide and sat down at his desk. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he picked up a stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.

Dead silence.

And the rest of the school year went very smoothly.

Semper Fi!

Irish jokes

I just posted another Irish joke. This joke, Donal Calaghan’s Experience, plays into Irish stereotypes less than others, but I wanted to say something about those stereotypes. While a lot of humor plays on stereotypes, we have become more sensitive regarding humor based on cultural stereotypes. Generally, such stereotypes are avoided. While many may bemoan political correctness, I ‘feel that political correctness is really just a matter of all of us trying to be more sensitive.

To me Irish jokes present a special challenge. There was a time when help wanted signs in the U. S. added the note, ‘Irish need not apply.’ The jokes stereotype the Irish as being heavy drinkers. And we know – or should know – that not all Irish are heavy drinkers, let alone falling down drunks.

Then, again, if you listen to the traditional music, you will realize that, to some degree, the tradition glories in the stereotypes. Songs like “Whiskey, Whiskey,” “Whiskey in the Jar,” “Seven Drunken Nights,” “Finnegan’s Wake” and others all seem to relish the reputation, or at least acknowledge it. That said, there are a lot of rough, sad songs that reflect a difficult history. For example, there are a fair number of hanging songs, and I doubt if anyone reading this l knows of one Irish person who has been to the gallows.

All of this said, many of the Irish I know relish a good Irish joke, stereotype and all. So, here they are, with a tip of the hat to the many fine Irish people I know.

ADDED NOTE, January 26, 2014: This article was just posted, if you are interested in more about the issue of Irish stereotypes. It goes into more detail as well as the history of these stereotypes. http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/cahirodoherty/Does-it-matter-if-the-Irish-are-portrayed-as-bullies-and-drunks.html

Happy New Year!

Well, it is 7:45 p.m. where I live.  Another year is drawing to a close.  It is about time to start the annual Scrabble game with my wife.  Maybe I can win this year.

The New Year is a powerful point in the year, because it represents so much.  It symbolizes a new beginning, new possibilities, the end of things gone by.

“Should old acquaintance be forgot?” means should we forget old times?  The answer to that is no, especially to friends and loved ones.  But it is a reminder because of the powerful symbol of a new page, a blank slate, endless possibilities.  Each new year represents the changes we can make, the new person we can become.

So, happy new year to all.  Wishing you the best in 2012!

The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning?

According to a group of conservative Christians, tomorrow is the beginning of the end of the world.  Media sources have incorrectly been calling this the end of the world, which according to this group, is actually October 21.  According to this group, tomorrow is the beginning of the end, when Christians are raptured – physically taken up into heaven to be with God – and the rest of the world is left to, literally, go to hell in the final 5 months.

In my opinion, as you might guess, there are several problems with this.  The first problem is from within the purview of Biblical literature, the source documents from which Christians who believe in a literal second coming are informed about the details.  (Please note that not all Christians believe in a literal second coming.  Of course, those who believe Saturday is the end of their time on earth would probably not accept these non-literalist folks as true Christians.)

The first problem is, according to the Gospels, the words of Jesus himself: no one knows the day or hour.  It is hard to understand how those who claim to take the Bible literally can ignore this statement.  Jesus also described “that day” coming as a thief in the night, catching many unprepared.  So the first problem is found in the words of Jesus, himself.

A second problem is in how the date was discerned to be the day that Jesus comes for the faithful and the end begins.  The math is done on this May 18 post on the group’s website: http://judgementday2011.com/.  Basically, it is a numerological interpretation of the date, 21 May 2011.  Now certainly the Bible uses a variety of symbolism, but this is a purely numerological interpretation of the date, i.e., applying a supposed meaning for different numbers.  For example, “The number 5 equals ‘atonement’, the number 10 equals ‘completeness’, and the number 17 equals ‘heaven.'”  The math goes on and gets considerably more complicated, but this should give you an idea.

Numerology has been used many times before to interpret Biblical passages, by mystics and fundamentalists alike.  But this is not a literal meaning of the passages relating to the end of the world in the Bible.  This is an interpretive device used to seemingly get around the fact that the Bible is pretty sparse on actual details of when this end will happen.  And that is if you take a literal view of such things.

To me, there is yet another problem.  I admit that this is based on my understanding of Scripture, which seeks to understand the literal meaning of Biblical passages, but in no way tries to make all the portions of Scripture conform to one another.  Put another way, the only way to interpret a passage of Scripture is to seek it’s literal, original meaning.  This involves allowing for nuances in the original language, historical background and meanings, etc.  It does not assume that the literal meaning of any passage will be historically, scientifically, philosophically true.  It gives us a sense of what the original author meant to convey.

What is most important to me from a variety of Scriptures is that God is with us, and nothing can undo that relationship.  I love the passage in Psalm 139.  That passage  describes how intimately God knows us, even what we are going to say before we know it.  It describes how one cannot run from God because God is already anywhere we could possibly run, so running from God only results in our running into God.  And it talks, in very intimate terms, of how God knit us together, personally making each of us.

To me, God is that close to each of us; God has made us and is in the very warp and woof of the fabric of our makeup.  It is God who made us and holds us together.  No one needs to be “taken up” to be closer to the divine.   The divine is part of our very being, making each of us and literally holding our existence, and all of existence, together.

Too bad that those who think tomorrow is the beginning of the end don’t seem to understand just how close we are to the divine.  They certainly don’t believe that God is that close to all of us.  But when we realize that God is that close to all of us, we have simply come to the end of the beginning.  The beginning of an appreciation for how pervasive God is in the world around us, in each of our lives, and in the lives of every living creature.  To me, that is a worthy beginning.

Back to Wyrld

For many years I had a collection of story ideas that grew and grew.   While at first the focus was on the alternate world, the story begins when someone from our world has an accident and wakes up in this alternate world where he discovers that he has magical powers.

Since he always wanted to find a magic land, he assumes that he is producing the hallucination and is actually back in the real world, dying.  He finds himself comparing his experiences to  Thomas Covenant and other standards of fantasy fiction.  It makes perfect sense, especially given how easily he learns to perform Real Magic, as well as some other unique attributes of the world in which he finds himself.

Then, last year, during the winter in 2010, I actually began writing and flushed out a good bit of the beginning of the story.  I wrote about 20 chapters, then hit a glitch and stopped.  I have now resumed.  Chapter 3 is actually a new chapter.  It is kind of exciting to “be back” in Wyrld.  It feels like I am returning to a favorite place, and now looking forward to see what happens.

If you are reading this and would like to read what I have so far (realizing it is still very rough), please let me know and send me your e-mail address and I will be glad to send you the password.

In the meantime, magical (and wyrd!) journeys to you!

Catching Up

This past week I registered on the site for my high school class reunion, and I have begun catching up with a few old (and now older) friends.  In the process, I saw that I had a spike in visits to WyrdWanderers – as much as 12 hits one day!!! – and that some had been to my humor page.  The humor page that I unfortunately discovered had nothing in it!

Okay, okay, so my wanderings don’t always include updating my site and writing new blogs.  It is kind of like taking photos at a special event.  Sometimes you need to put the camera down and just enjoy the moment. (Of course, sometimes the camera helps you actually see things you might not otherwise, but that is a different post.)

Well, I would like to say that I have been  doing my Wanderings and focusing on the moment.  To some degree that is probably true, and to some degree posting actually preserves, remembers, or even creates the moment.  Life has few definitive borders, just like the earth seen from space.  Everything is in flux, in motion.  “Difficult to see. Always in motion, the future is.”  “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.”  “You can’t put your foot in the same river twice.”  And those same currents that make the future difficult to see actually blur the boundaries between things like enjoying the moment and creating new moments.

Ah, well, I admit it.  I haven’t been keeping the site up.  Sooooooo, welcome to visitors.  Please feel free to post comments.  And a special welcome to those with whom I am beginning to connect after 40 years.  I trust you won’t be too surprised at some of the places I have wandered.

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