Speculative Thought: Love

 

The English language is rich in words - some 600,000 of them in the Oxford Dictionary with many synonyms expressing subtle differences in meaning.  However, one English word, love, is rather poor in synonyms.  People say, I love baseball, I love ideas, I love ice cream, I love my children, I love my wife; but obviously each of these loves is somewhat different.  Hence, we place adjectives in front of the word such as erotic love or platonic love in order to convey the correct meaning.  Christian theologians are constantly reminding us that God loves us and sometimes they use adjectives.  They say His love is gratuitous but that seems to be incomplete when thinking about God and possibly misleading if we start thinking of free love, United States, circa 1969.  The same is true of unconditional love if we reflect on the parable of the prodigal son.  The Father’s love was always available to the lost son, but the celebration only started when the son came to his senses and began the journey home and that was a condition, not on the Father’s love but on that love becoming productive in the son.

 

Would our culture change if the English language had different words to distinguish the various nuances of love?

 

How do we describe Christian love?  Here is a passage from St. Paul (Corinthians 13:4-7): “Love is patient; love is kind.  Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish.  Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries.  Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth.  There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.”

 

Do you will the good of those around you?  If you do, then you love the other, your neighbor, and this is the love of Jesus in scripture and consistent with what the Church teaches about how we are to live our lives.

 

 

Speculative Thought: Making a past moment present.

Remembering a pleasant or joyful moment from the past usually contributes to ongoing happiness.  Here is one way to think about the past.  There are 3,600 seconds in one hour (60 x 60 since there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in 1 hour) and 86,400 seconds in one day (3,600 x 24 hours) and thus 31,536,000 seconds in one year (86,400 x 365days in a non-leap year).  To get to a billion seconds takes about 31.71 years ignoring leap years (1,000,000,000/31,536,000 =  31.71).  Thus, when one of my sons reached 32 years in age, he just passed 1 billion seconds of life.  If he had a really happy 10th birthday, then that happened somewhere around 315,360,000 seconds into his life; and my son, thinking about those moments, allows those past seconds to be made present now in his mind.

Thinking about time this way and making a past moment present allows all self-conscious individuals to think about the past and even expand it to a time before our birth where the memory comes from a history book or stories and rituals handed down through generations.  Thus, the birth of the United States of America happened on July 4, 1776 and in 2021 that was about 7,726,320,000 seconds ago.  The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus happened about 64,000,000,000 seconds ago and as such these moments may be made present in our minds.

Now let us speculate about God who is outside of space- time and who understands or views all these moments at once.  This is different than making the past moment present because all these moments are already present, all at once to the Eternal One.  Thus, God’s view of “making present” is different from my physical understanding of counting seconds.  When the trans-physical God views or remembers a physical event, He views or remembers it into our present since he “sees” all at once.  This is what happens at mass at the consecration when the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross becomes present on the altar in the here and now through God’s remembrance.

 

In a similar manner, when a person remembers a deceased loved one, I believe it is possible for that individual to think about the last moments of the loved one’s life and to ask Jesus the Christ in prayer to help the loved one die in God’s grace. In God’s timeless eternity that can happen, and it is the reason why the living should offer prayer’s for the dead and remember them by name and why the Church offers masses for the deceased. Your prayer for a loved one may help that person’s hour of death. The past, present, and future are all equally real and “now” is only a locator in time, like “here” is in space.

 

 

 

Speculative Thought: Multiverses   

 

By universe I mean the physical universe that we observe when we examine the sky through telescopes and instruments or when we investigate the atomic structure of matter.  From the very large to the very small and everything in between is part of the universe.  The concept of multiverses comes out of various physical theories that attempt to explain what is observed in cosmology (the very large) and in quantum mechanics (the very small).  These theories predict parallel universes or other entire universes that co-exist with our known universe.  Collectively these other universes are the multiverse.  In cosmology space-time came into physical reality about 13.8 billion years ago according to the big bang theory where there was massive expansion (a/k/a inflation) at a singularity.  This inflation explains certain features of our universe and therefore is well regarded by physicists.  Inflation theory, however, has failed certain measurement tests and leads to parallel and bubble universes, which cannot be observed, yet have to exist if inflation is true.  Separately, in quantum mechanics, the mathematics of the wave function bifurcates, and all possibilities are considered real in the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI), leading to other multiverses separate from those that came from inflation. 

 

Now physical or material reality is finite.  In the very large, the number of particles and arrangements in our known universe can be estimated; it’s a big number but finite, certainly not infinite.  In the very small, at a certain point, time and length scales become so tiny that they are no longer physically meaningful to people.  We are forced by reality to stop subdividing after a finite number.  Nothing physical is infinite.  Infinities belong to theoretical mathematics, philosophy, metaphysics, and religion.  The smallest particles of matter reduce to mathematical form. The wave function and the infinite-dimensional Hilbert Space where it resides are mathematical objects.

 

In a nutshell, here are my quick thoughts as to why a highly skeptical view of the reality of various multiverses remains:

1): Besides the infinite space difficulty, I make a distinction between space-time with its particles and energy and the void outside its expanding sphere of which nothing is known.  It’s a big step to turn a void into other universes.

2): Inflation especially the eternal feature, as many have noted, appears to be a Ponzi energy scheme.

3): MWI uses probabilities, yet all universes really exist in this reality including those that are not likely and those that have an incredibly low probabilities of existence. In this Many Worlds, what is the meaning of probability?  Finally, the split happens simultaneously ignoring frame of reference concepts, and even though some say that the wave function never collapses in a Many Worlds Interpretation, its equivalent does occur somewhere – that is, splits happen and multiple versions of you, me, and everything else in this vast universe continues to exist multiple times in this Many Worlds reality. There is a considerable amount of  matter and energy in a complete universe and here it is being created in its entirety in an instant, many times.

 

Speculative Thought: Trans-Physical Soul and a Resurrected Body

A Christian believes in a soul that is not material and a resurrected glorious body that is different from the body that we experience in this life.  A secular world yearns for the transcendental but generally does not believe a soul or a resurrected body to be true.  For most of my adult life, I ignored the soul and was content with the notion that at some time after my death I would be resurrected.  I understood the material world, but the non-material was hazy, and I did not worry about it.  I found it amazing that I was physically born and with that established, it was possible for me to believe in my rebirth or resurrection and to say the Christian creed recited every Sunday at mass. Another way of expressing this thought is to say that I was dead before I was born; and if something happened once, then it might happen again, and thus my rebirth or resurrection should not be thought of as impossible. For those interested, read paragraphs 136, 168, and 169 of my memoirs that I wrote in 2002 and 2003. About five years after I wrote these paragraphs, on January 21, 2007 according to my journal, I had an experience that convinced me that I have a non-material soul.  I have not changed or added to my memoirs since writing them so this later experience is not recorded there; however, it seems appropriate to record it here since it might help agnostic individuals who may be reading this.  In brief, upon awakening one morning and resting in bed on my back, eyes wide open and looking at the ceiling where bright sunlight was pouring through the window when I realized I was happy and serenely peaceful; and suddenly with that realization I became aware that I was being embraced, not physically because my five senses told me nothing out of the ordinary was happening in the room, but mentally because I thought I was being hugged, not with arms around my body but inwardly.  I did not move.  This awareness of a presence lasted at least three minutes.  During that time, I did not see, hear, smell, taste, or touch anything unusual in the bedroom. Afterwards, and to this day, I know I have a trans-physical soul and because of this experience I am able to reaffirm the conclusion of paragraph 169 of my memoirs albeit from a different perspective.  That paragraph reads: “With time I stopped speculating about death and eternal life, comfortable with Christ’s promise.  I have been saying my prayers and receiving communion for years.  Almost daily I know God is with me, and therefore, how can death separate a union that God has started?”

 

Speculative Thought: Check Your Assumptions

Once I learned Euclidean geometry in high school, mathematics became my favorite subject, and I began to excel at it.  Eventually, I earned a master’s degree in mathematics and that led to fellowship in the Society of Actuaries and a very satisfying career. 

The nature of mathematical proof is to start with axioms or assumptions and by reasoning to finish with sound conclusions or theorems.  From that perspective, mathematics is easy, unlike the more difficult disciplines of philosophy, theology and politics.  Many of the contentious conclusions reached in these three disciplines occur because of differences in initial assumptions.  That is, people argue over philosophical, theological or political conclusions because they overlook the assumptions their opponents started from or believe to be true.

For example, using mathematics as an example and in particular plane geometry, Euclid’s fifth postulate states that given a straight line and a point not on that line, exactly one and only one parallel line can be drawn through that point.  With that postulate or assumption, the sum of the angles in any triangle will always equal 180 degrees and practical results such as the Pythagorean Theorem for right triangles will follow.   However, if you change the fifth postulate to read that no parallel lines can be drawn through the given point, you get triangles where the sum of their angles exceeds 180 degrees and a host of results and theorems different from those in the Euclidean world.  Mathematicians don’t argue over the differences in results, recognizing that the differences arise from the initial assumption.  Euclidean geometry works on the surface of a plane while if you are dealing with longitudinal lines on the surface of a sphere or globe you are in a non-Euclidean world with no parallel lines because all of them intersect at the poles.

The next time you disagree with a person on a difficult subject try to understand what assumptions each of you are making.

 

Speculative Thought: The Way You Think or What You Assume Forces Your Conclusions about Abortion

Picking up an acorn on the forest ground, a man thought, “This is a potential tree, and I will take it home, plant it in my garden, and it will become a tree.”   A second man also finding an acorn thought, “This is a tree in its earliest stages of development, and I will plant it in my garden so that it may grow and develop.”  How you think or what you assume about abortion – whether a human fetus is only a potential human being or already a human being in its earliest stages of development forces your conclusion about the morality of the procedure.

 

Speculative Thought: Assumptions about Reality (1)

Dr. Lawrence Krauss is a theoretical physicist.  He used to write a column for Scientific American and has been vocal and active in promoting an atheistic view of reality.  On June 26, 2009 the Wall Street Journal published his article, God and Science Don’t Mix, which begins with a 1934 quote from the biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, “My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.”  Dr. Krauss agrees and argues that a scientist when he does science must act like an atheist. 

 

This is an unfortunate view based on the materialistic philosophical assumption that everything in reality can be explained by the jiggling and wiggling of atoms.  Moreover, to take methodological naturalism, the way science works in practice, and to turn it into philosophical naturalism as Haldane did is an unwarranted assumption that limits reality or possibly confused thought based on the failure to make the distinction.

 

An alternate assumption comes about by acknowledging that an experiment unfolds according to the underlying structure of the universe, which is mathematical, and mathematics requires Intelligence.  This theistic assumption allows a religious or philosophical believer to believe as he practices his science.  No discovery has contradicted the theistic assumption, and it could be argued that the complexity of reality from the expanding universe to the human genome to conscious self-aware persons who love all point to a higher intelligence.  Clearly, it makes more sense to believe in a fundamental intelligence rather than the belief that intelligence and rational thought emerged from non-thinking matter.  Moreover, there have been billions of rational people throughout the world over many different cultures and ages that have said that they are aware of some aspect of this initial Intelligence through prayer, experience, or thinking. Scientists who ignore the empirical evidence, testimony, and experiences of these lives are ignoring a part of reality.

 

 

                                                                                                                           

Speculative Thought: Assumptions about Reality (2)

 

Instead of assumptions of an eternal material universe that is possibly composed of gravity and virtual particles that pass in and out of nothing, assume an eternal non-physical mind.  Now come into time and the present moment, in order to consider the correct quantum mechanical view of nature.  Is it Copenhagen, Quantum Bayesian, many-worlds, or some other variant?  Wavefunctions, supposition of states, entanglement, and nonlocality are words used to explain experiments that produce results that appear unexplainable.  Perhaps future experiments and developments will give us a clearer picture of physical reality (Quantum theory has only been around for about 100 years).  In the meantime, it is interesting to speculate, “Would an eternal mind be able to collapse a wavefunction?”  Or “Christian revelation states the nature of Jesus was fully divine and fully human; and thus, a possible speculation is that this internal supposition of states in Jesus was collapsed at the Resurrection.”  Will there be a synthesis of modern physics and theology?  I believe the person or persons who accomplish this synthesis will be guided by (1) what God has revealed and (2) what we have learned through reason and observation.

 

Speculative Thought: Miracles

A miracle may be defined simply as supernatural intervention in the natural order.  This understanding helps to avoid the notion that such intervention violates natural law.  There is no logical inconsistency with such an intervention because natural laws are based on observations not assumptions.  The intervention merely adds another observation to our understanding of what is possible.  Methodological naturalism which is the methodology of empirical science is not the same as philosophical naturalism which is an assumption falsified by miracles.  The miracles documented in scripture and by the church at such places as Lourdes should be of significant interest to science.                                                                                               

 

 

 

Speculative Thought: The multiplication of loaves and fishes from the New Testament as understood by using the Banach-Tarski theorem from mathematics.

Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 14, verses 13-21: “When Jesus heard this, he withdrew by boat from there to a deserted place by himself.  The crowds heard of it and followed him on foot from the towns.  When he disembarked and saw the vast throng, his heart was moved with pity, and he cured their sick.  As evening drew on, his disciples came to him with the suggestion: “This is a deserted place, and it is already late.  Dismiss the crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.”  Jesus said to them: “There is no need for them to disperse.  Give them something to eat yourselves.”  “We have nothing here,” they replied, “but five loaves and a couple of fish.”  “Bring them here,” he said.  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.  He took the five loaves and two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed and broke them and gave the loaves to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the people.  All those present ate their fill.  The fragments remaining, when gathered up, filled twelve baskets.  Those who ate were about five thousand, not counting women and children.”

 

The Banach-Tarski theorem (also known as the Banach-Tarski paradox because of its surprising result) as described in James and James’s Mathematics Dictionary: The theorem of Banach and Tarski states that if A and B are bounded sets in a Euclidean space of dimension at least 3 and if both A and B have interior points, then A can be separated into a finite number of pieces and reassembled by moving the pieces by rigid motions (translations and rotations) to form a set congruent to B.  A specific example of this theorem in plain English - it is possible to cut one solid sphere into a finite number of pieces and to reassemble those pieces to form two solid spheres each of the same size as the original sphere.  The proof of the theorem uses infinite point sets as the pieces and the axiom of choice (an axiom in set theory that most mathematicians accept).

 

Speculation: There are many interpretations of this Gospel story, ranging from the physical/literal to the spiritual/metaphorical and everything in-between.  The Church teaches that Jesus is a divine person (i.e., God) with fully divine and fully human natures.  If we focus on His divinity, then we can believe that Jesus literally multiplied the loaves and fishes.  The counterintuitive Banach-Tarski (BT) theorem gives us some insight here.  No human can physically take sets of points out of one material object and reassemble those points in order to construct two material objects of the same size.  However, it is reasonable to assume that the transcendental and who works with infinities could do that.  Humans as finite creatures cannot physically multiply a material object.  However, humans possess an immaterial soul, we are able to do abstract mathematics, to develop the axiom of choice, to think about infinities and hence prove the BT theorem; and thus, come to an insight in our minds and on paper as to the validity of this BT conclusion independent of faith.  This happy confluence of reason and faith allows us not only to interpret the gospel story on a purely human level (e.g., the disciples of Jesus are to give food to the hungry, and once we do so then others will also start to share, and our gifts will multiply) but also to recognize that the story is literally true on a different level.