Science is my Religion…That’s a Bad Thing

I look down on religion.  I mean, I understand why people believe in it, even organize their lives around it.  But I always felt those reasons were weak, and only for people who couldn’t handle the true nature of reality.  Recent reflections, though, force me to rethink that view.

For a bit of context, I believe in science, and more importantly, scientific method.  There’s an important element to science, and that is reproducibility.  That simply means what others have found before, we can find out again in the future.  Even if we lose the results of the original experiment, we can still come up with the same experiment and arrive at the same results.  Knowledge is never truly lost, because even if we forget it, we can figure it out again.

As best I can tell, people believe in religion largely because it gives their lives meaning.  It feels good to think that death isn’t the end.  That after we die we move onto the afterlife, and can see what happens in life.  And that we have some kind of control over what happens in that afterlife.  I reject that view, because there is no evidence.  If something happened and we lost all knowledge of religion, it is gone forever.  There is no experiment we can do that will bring back knowledge of god or heaven.

That same feeling of having some control over what happens after I die is a big part of why I believe in science.  Sure, my body will be gone.  My mind will be gone.  Perhaps even my genes will be gone.  But any knowledge I have attained will still be here, and even if it isn’t, we can figure it out again.  Sure, some things future generations probably won’t be able to figure out.  How I look wearing plaid, what I ate for breakfast February 2nd 1991, and other details, but the big stuff, that will go on.  Future generations will be able to figure out the big bang, and see the expansion of the Universe.  But, as it turns out, that’s not the case.

The Universe is expanding.  It’s expanding faster and faster every moment.  Even if we took off at top speed for distant parts of the Universe, we’d never get there.  It doesn’t matter how fast we go, or how long we travel.  The bigger the Universe gets, the faster it expands.  This is the problem.  Not only will we never be able to travel to anywhere, as things get farther away, we won’t even be able to see them.  We’ll never be able to figure out the Big Bang.  All we’ll see is our own billionth of a percent of what we can see now.  It won’t expand, or contract.  The stars will slowly go out, leaving only darkness.

Imagine a future creature.  Maybe a human, maybe an alien.  But, for some reason, they lost most of the knowledge we have now.  Or they have it, but can no longer prove it.  They’ll never be able to figure it out again.  They will only be able to see their tiny island and have no idea that anything is beyond it.  The information we have right now, the most important information about the very nature of reality, will be lost forever.  Depressing doesn’t cut it.  That is a yawning gulf of despair with no end.  It is horror on a cosmological scale that not only doesn’t care about humans or intelligence of any kind, but can’t care, even on a symbolic level.

So now I know my existence is pointless.  Regardless of what I do to advance human knowledge, it could be lost, with no way of getting it back.  Granted, I have billions of years before that happens.  And far longer till the last of the stars in our fraction of the Universe wink out.  But it will happen.  I think this is the feeling religious people get when they start to realize that god doesn’t exist.  Everything I have ordered my life around is pointless.  It doesn’t change anything about me, or the world at large, but in some ways it changes everything.

So, the TL;DR is I lean on science the same way others lean on religion.  If the idea that the one tool humans have for understanding our world will someday be rendered pointless depresses you, then join the club.  I have nothing the offer to ease the pain.

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