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Nevada • Posted: Feb 10, 2013 12:23:03Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

The notion of multiverses is being talked about more and more lately. The notion there might be more than one universe comes from physics. It is an attempt to reconcile the fact that we are here with the fact that we wouldn't be if things were just a little bit different. For instance, if the strong nuclear force that holds the nuclei of atoms together were just a little bit stronger, there would be no free hydrogen and hence no water, upon which we all depend. Or, if gravity were less strong, there very likely would be no stars to manufacture all the more complex elements that make up everything we know, including us. Proponents of intelligent design seize upon that exactitude to advance their contention there must be an intelligent creator. But scientists who have taken a look at the math that describes the workings of our universe quite well have noticed the equations actually allow for other solutions, a great many other solutions. Hence, the notion of a multiverse, a universe that allows for alternative versions of itself.

That notion seems ripe for exploitation, insightfully or not. I am here thinking of how relativistic our daily lives seem. We wake up and take care of things confronting us, like a specific bill needing to be paid or an email needing to be answered or an errand needing to be run, etc., etc. But what we individually face can be entirely different from what our neighbors face, and even more different from what people in other countries face. Moralists insist there are universal principles of ethics, values, and truths that can and should guide us in the choices we make. But, many pragmatists have come to realize strict adherence to moralistic principles only insures crushing defeat in the face of continuously fluid circumstances. Instead, the standard of best possible choice would seem to at least help ensure survival through a kaleidoscope of changes. No one would want to kill their best friend. But if doing so helps ensure at least one of us survives, we might make that choice.

A friend, in fact, relates a dream she had recently about people pulling up in cars outside her house and her feeling the intense need to warn them off with a gun. She doesn't own a gun and never has. She attributes the feelings in the dream to her persistent anxiety over trying to refinance her house. The point is, we want so to control, to set things "to right", to maintain our equilibrium, that the crush of circumstance may at times prompt us to abandon the moral principles within which we normally operate. The same underlying dynamic is very likely at play in outbursts of violence we see in the news every day across the globe. Circumstances prompt the need to act. Moderate the felt circumstances and the personal imperative to strike out in violence diminishes. A lesson for all controlling bosses, spouses, parents, governments, and ruling classes. No law or moral platitude will ever override that fact of human nature.

In any case, morality is a rather arbitrary structure imposed upon our thinking by the culture in which we live. A different culture, a different morality. Humans live in a multiverse of differing moralities, all adapted to and optimized for the circumstances in which they are found. But physics and biology do not adhere to the cultures of humans. Instead, they are the scaffolding and foundation upon which we struggle to survive. So easy it is for us to judge another's action according to the morality by which we act, yet so hard to understand the logic by which another's decisions have been made. Understanding physics and biology can help us better understand, from their point of view, the imperatives others try to address. Understanding the culture they carry in their heads can also help us to understand the filtering and sorting of facts that underly the decisions they make.

In order to better understand both the strengths and limitations of our current culture, ever changing in the long run, it can be useful to occasionally look at the workings of physics and biology without the influence of people and their self-serving rhetoric muddying the picture. May there always be such places for us to find, study, and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
West Wendover
16.3 mm 77 mm
1/250 sec
f 5