Many if not all human societies have origin myths and they differ greatly.

Several years ago a San Francisco-born-and-raised woman told me she is a materialist.

An hour ago a woman who was raised a Jehovah Witness and has left that faith told me the Big Bang story grew from a human need for a beginning. I agreed.

Can you wholeheartedly accept that the universe had no beginning, that it has always existed?

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Jeez, I don't know! How could I or anyone know? In the long scope of things, it doesn't matter. Whatever, mythology or theory I support, I expect it to lead to justice, equality of opportunity, and peace. 

From my point of view, none of the systems seem to reach those goals. Maybe I/we can just chuck the ideas of how it all started and commit to living together as grown-ups. Whatever that means. Grown up to Trump and the Clintons mean one thing; to the grownups who think food, water, soils, air, shelter, health care, and education for all those born on Earth exist as my notion of grown up. 

Gosh, Joan, your post has me thinking. I'm sure it was in school, maybe sixth grade civics, that I first saw things like justice, equality and peace as existing since America became a nation. Then, but for being in the Korean War, I was living the privileged life of a white American male, studying things like math and science and then being employed in those fields, I was in my 40s and doing serious politics, struggling for personal and political power, before I started seeing them as things people make happen or fail to make happen. Like purpose in life, I make it or don't make it. And, like this paragraph, doing a lot of editing as I write it.

Chucking the idea of how it all started is one thing when the search costs nothing; it's another thing when it costs billions of dollars. Similarly, living together as grown-ups is one thing when we are all normal; it's another thing when some of us are sociopaths.

I don't. I think of it as a concept of time. Something that always was and will always be. Whether we are around to measure it or not.

Truly a tough question Tom. What little cosmology I have studied all leads to positing a beginning and the astrophysicist interpret the Doppler shift and  expansion of matter and assumed expansion of dark matter in the universe  to be an ongoing process that had a beginning (Big Bang obviously). But nothing in my limited study of the topic precludes a non-beginning model. It seems to me that is Einstein was correct about the nature of time-gravity fields in the universe, then time itself may be so convoluted as to make the concept of a universal beginning kind of slippery. My reading of that stuff leads me to suspect that all that ever was is still somewhere  a reality back there in time and it  always will exist in the fabric of time. If that's true beginnings don't seem particularly important.  I can imagine the no beginning model, but my poor brain certainly isn't up to deciding the issue one way or another. I suspect you have caused me to be up all night now thinking about it however. Cheers.

With zero understanding of the math involved (and that's really all there is to go on as far as any notion of "evidence" is concerned) I think you may have touched on one of the key issues when you mentioned "a reality back there in time." If there were some sort of beginning (with or without a bang), a question our minds seem compelled to ask is what was there before the beginning event that (presumably, somehow) gave rise to it?

The problem there is the concept of "before" doesn't apply. Time is among the things that were generated at the beginning if there was one. According to what I've read, physicists know that the apparent flow of time from past through the present to the future isn't objectively real. The ancient image of the world as a giant snake devouring its own tail seems compatible with the notion that nature always was and always will be. For myself, I lean toward Aleister Crowley's bon mot that the universe is a practical joke on the part of the general at the expense of the particular.

Bertold, I can't grasp time not existing. But, as I age, I have trouble grasping many different things.

The coffee pot is especially slippery
;)

Look on the bright side. After Tuesday our new fearless leader may be someone who has no problem grasping things.

Fearless leaders, Bert?

Every stinking one of them desperately fears not leading, cuz not leading means they're not in control.

...I second that Tom....

Me, too.

Bingo, Bert!

...[with only math] to go on as far as any notion of "evidence" is concerned....

Can math approximate physical reality, or can it prove or disprove physical reality?

Math can approximate the physical world. PERIOD.
Try writing the differential equations to predict the weather when they have to account for butterflies in China flapping their wings.
Thought experiments aren't up to the task.

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