Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The deep mystery of existence.7: Ten trillion stars to make you (updated 27 January 2016)



A curious aspect of the universe we live in, i.e. the only one in this dimension, is that it is designed and engineered accurately for the emergence and evolution of civilization.

 

It was created ex nihilio (out of existential nothingness) 13.8 billion years ago. It had certain starting conditions and physical constants and has proceeded to evolve in a purposeful way, from the first elementary particles to the atoms to the molecules to clouds of gas to stars to galaxies to planets, culminating in intelligent, self-conscious beings on this planet (quite possibly uniquely, judging by observations of exoplanets, stars and galaxies to date) able to peer across space and time to deduce the time and nature of the original creation event. The planet on which this life has emerged is special to say the least, as is the accompanying moon,  the sun, the solar system, its position in  the Milky Way Galaxy and the properties of the MWG itself. 

Our perception is swinging back to a pre-Copernican one. Although we are small and non-central in space as we orbit the sun rather than vice versa, we could well be the centre of consciousness of the universe. It is in a sense like the centre of consciousness of a supertanker being the captain, who is much smaller than the ship and not in a central position, although he has a good view from the bridge just as we have a possibly uniquely good view of the universe.

It is well known that the size of the observable universe is vast, 93  billion light years across,  as is the number of stars it contains (10 with 23 zeros, i.e. 100 billion trillion, is probably on the conservative side). What is not so well known is that for life to be here on this planet now the universe has to be this size and in its present configuration. During its early development its mass had to be what it was then (the same as now in fact) to within the mass of a single coin.


(Incidentally it is not commonly mentioned in the popular science media that had the earth been formed slightly later the sun would have been too hot for life to start and no stars would be visible in the sky any way because the universe would have been expanding too fast. Had the earth started earlier the sun would again be in the wrong part of its cycle and the sky would be one brilliant mass of light with no individual celestial object visible because the stars would have been too closely crammed together at that  time in cosmic history.)

All the atoms, stars and galaxies of stars have to be exactly as they are for us to exist. They have somehow been moved and configured and tuned since the Big Bang to make humankind. If the original mass of the universe had been infinitesimally different there would be no living thing in the cosmos. Every person is totally dependent on whatever agency brought him or her into existence, the parents being just the last link in the chain that 'began' as a  deliberate cosmic manufacturing process by a  Creator, operating from outside of space-time, in another dimension. 

Another startling discovery of modern physics is that every particle in the universe is able to interact with any other particle in the universe - past, present or future. (Quantum entanglement.) So the idea that all that huge expanse is connected with us is made increasingly real, albeit impossible to comprehend. The famous line 'No man is an island' by John Donne (1572-1631) has never been more apt, reflecting poetically something which would not be discovered until 4 centuries later. The old 19th century mechanistic, Newtonian, Darwinian reductionist view of the universe is now seen as an outdated, mentally stifling approximation of what is really there. 

How many of us are there? Rounding up let us say 10 billion.

A simple piece of arithmetic: divide 100 billion trillion (assuming this estimate for the number of stars to be correct - it may be much more) by 10 billion.  The answer is 10 trillion, which, incidentally, is equal to the number of cells in the body  - one star for every cell. In a way this is what one would expect. A body cell comprises trillions of atoms expertly arranged to perform a specific function or range of functions, so vast resources are needed to make the atoms it needs and somehow intelligence is invoked in a way that surpasses understanding.

If, as I believe is the only rational explanation, the Creator has made this universe in order to bring us into being, you may wonder at his wastefulness. But what if there is no other way? Just to make a can for a soft drink or beer takes enormous resources and the most elaborate world communication and transport processes. Large amounts of waste are produced as a by product and have to be disposed of. Even if you divide the total consumption of energy and resources by the number of cans of drink it must still be huge. Similarly with the construction of our planet and its 7 billion inhabitants. Unimaginably large amounts of materials and energy are left over but unless they had been there to be left over, and in the quantities observed, there would be no human civilization. (See story of a drinks can on this blog.)  

Just to make a unicellular organism, an incredibly complex work of engineering, requires an immense amount of organization and bringing together of the right trace elements and building blocks and putting them together in an intelligent way. So is it surprising that it takes a whole universe to produce human civilization?

In a sense the Creator has in  His abundant love and omnipotence made 10 trillion stars (and much else) in order that you can exist in physical form and be conscious of the created order around you  and think, love, hate, create, destroy, perceive beauty and ugliness, seek truth or falsehood, desire justice, practice honesty or dishonesty, forgive or avenge, be loyal or disloyal, proud or humble, and experience a whole spectrum of sensations via the five senses and spiritually.

So when you look at the night sky don’t think you are not important to God.

John