Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Arrogance Is Us

In yesterday’s New York Times (June 5, 2007) there is an article about the latest findings on the nature of the universe (The Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding).

Now i don't understand physics. Not even the basics. But i found the article interesting because it points out some fundamental defects of human nature. And scientists, like the rest of us, are human. So i will paraphrase the essay’s main points. You can find the original article online at

In a paper to be published in The Journal of Relativity and Gravitation, two physicists write that in the far future (100 billion years or so) “observers in our (universe) will be fundamentally incapable of determining the true nature of the universe.” In other words, the universe will change in ways that will not lend itself to an accurate observation of itself. One of the authors told the NY Times, “You can have right physics, but the evidence at hand could lead to the wrong conclusion. The same thing could be happening today.”

The culprit, according to the physicists, is something called ‘dark energy.’ This mysterious force was discovered in 1998 and is thought to be accelerating cosmic expansion, causing galaxies to rush away from each other, like married couples getting divorced, or Prabhupada disciples leaving Iskcon.

The current view of the universe is that it is now around 14 billion years old and composed of a trace of ordinary matter and a lot of dark matter. This matter is being pushed by dark energy, throwing galaxies away from each other until they reach a sort of horizon and simply vanish from view, as if slipping into a black hole. Not a very bright prospect. Eventually this runaway dark energy will suck all the life out of the universe. One prominent scientist called this kind of universe, “not very appealing.” Another one said it was simply “the worst possible universe.”

Einstein, whose theories are still intrinsic to how physicists see the universe, once said, “The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not.”
So subtle is God’s energy that even the greatest minds don’t know what they don’t know, and never will. The problem, according to cosmologist Max Tegmark is not divine malice, but human arrogance. “We have a tendency to put ourselves at the center of the universe,” he said. “We assume all we see is all there is.”

Big Bang theorists think that basic aspects of the universe are already out of sight. One of their theories is called inflation, which says that just a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, an extremely violent form of dark energy exploded, pushing away chaos and debris and perhaps even sending other universes out of our visible sky. So, they say, we live in a messy universe that just looks smooth and orderly.

Is the universe a mess or is it tidy? It could be both. But how it really acts will always remain a mystery, because it's supramundane and mystical. daivi hy esa gunamayi (BG 7.14) Nature's actions are so wonderful, so subtle, both in creating and in destroying itself, because it's God's energy. Nature is divine because it's controlled by divine will.

mayam tu prakrtim vidyan mayinam tu mahesvaram (Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.10)

“Although maya or illusion is false and temporary, in the background is the supreme magician, the Lord, who is its controller.”

The dark energy that physicists have recently discovered can never be brought under their influence. It is super arrogant to think that cosmic intelligence can be brought under the control of beings who are themselves subject to the control of cosmic intelligence. And dark energy will never lead us to enlightenment. Pursuing it in various forms will only lead to frustration because our approach is arrogant.

Arrogance, it turns out, is our real enemy, not nature. False pride is the dark energy of human beings. It leads us to separate ourselves from our natural love for God, to remain averse to God, and to experience ignorance and fear in "the worst possible universe." But for one who can become humble, everything becomes friendly.

As Srila Prabhupada wrote to his disciple, Krishna das, in 1968: “A Krishna Consciousness person thinks always about himself as the lowest creature in the world, and the more one thinks like that he becomes elevated more and more.
"A Krishna Conscious person is never falsely puffed-up; he is satisfied with his humble position as the servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna.”

How much different would our world be if even 1% of the population would think and act like this? How different our society would be? How different our experiences in Iskcon would have been, if those in responsible positions had thought of themselves as servants rather than masters?

No, God is not malicious, as Einstein correctly wrote. But man is arrogant. That’s the problem.


shiva said...

I don't want to come across as a nitpicker but I noticed you made a mistake in this post. You conflated dark matter with dark energy. Dark matter is one thing (supposedly) and dark energy is something else (supposedly).

According to the consensus (but not all physicists) in the astro physics community (and therefore the world in general) dark matter (non baryonic matter) is making up somewhere above 90% of all matter in the universe. They call it dark because they have never seen it nor proven that it exists.

This is a simplified explanation of where the theory comes from for the existance of dark matter. The theory goes that there is unexplained gravitational effects being seen when considering the amount of normal matter at hand (in galaxies etc). There is not enough matter to cause the effects seen. So the theory of dark matter is that there must be some unseen matter which is causing the gravitational effects.

Dark energy is a different theory which has to do with the big bang theory. Without dark energy the big bang theory doesn't work. According to the big bang theory the universe should collapse or never have "expanded" as it is supposedly now doing. Once they figured this out by newer discoveries from more advanced technology and findings what happened is that the big bang theory needed to be revised. So like dark matter they theorize that there must be some massive all pervading unknown type of energy field which is causing the universe to expand and keep it from collapsing. They call it dark energy because like dark matter they have never seen it nor do the have any proof that it exists.

Both dark matter and dark energy are theoretical fixes, band-aids, to other theories which turned out to be in need of a fixing as technology and information advanced i.e the big bang theory and the theory that gravity is the dominant force in the universe both need dark energy and dark matter in order for those theories to be possible to be taken as true.

There are other hypothetical entities which have been pushed by consensus as being true but are also nothing more then hypothetical and without any actual direct proof. These include black holes, string theory, etc.

All these hypothetical entities were thought up for the purpose of trying to salvage the big bang theory when newer and newer discoveries made the big bang theory seem impossible to be reconciled with newer discoveries. Instead of rejecting the big bang theory what has happenened is that all sorts of hypothetical entities were invented in order to try to make the big bang theory work. Why? Because thousands upon thousands of careers are based on the big bang theory being true. Countless academics and scientists work exclusively in fields related to and based upon big bang cosmology. If the big bang theory were to fall then countless careers would be ruined.

Nevertheless there are many scientists who have spoken out agaisnt the big bang theory detailing all of it's faults in detail. The result is that there is open warfare in the physics community between those who reject the big bang (the minority) and those who are trying at all costs to preserve it (the majority).

Here are some links

jauvana said...

Thanks, Shiva, for the correction and background on the controversy within physics. As i mentioned in the post, i'm completely ignorant in physics but found the NY TImes article interesting because it showed the vulnerable position of claiming to know what you don't know, and the arrogance of man trying to conquer nature. since you seem well versed in science, it would be a great service to write your own articles from a vaisnava perspective. Srila Prabhupada always encouraged devotees to engage in such debates.

jauvana said...

i edited the piece based on your critique. you can let me know if the technical info is now more in line with current theory.

shiva said...

You got it right. And your point is even made more clear by the fact that all of these ideas about the big bang, dark energy, dark matter, etc, have been proven to be rubbish but are kept around and pontificated on because of financial considerations.