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Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens 
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 Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens


Please use this thread to discuss this chapter.



Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:41 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens
Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or of acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.

Carl Sagan

Oh bless, bless, bless him.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens
I have not read this chapter yet, but Penelope has inspired me.

It is interesting that Tyson (can I call him Iron Neil?) uses such Biblical chapter titles, this one tweaking the line from the legendary Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, reputed author of the well known Lord's Prayer 'on earth as in heaven'.

This paraphrase from The Lord's Prayer is of great theological interest, raising the problem of the relation between Heaven and the Heavens, which are generally considered identical in Gnostic Platonic theology. The vision of cosmic unity comes from the Hermetic mystical tradition of Thoth, Hermes Trismegistus. The version 'as above so below', which means the same thing as 'on earth as in the heavens' appears most famously in the legendary hermetic text called the Emerald Tablet as translated by Sir Isaac Newton, who used it as the axiomatic basis of his theory of gravity, a basic law of enlightenment which applies equally as an inverse square across all space time, on Earth as in the Heavens.

The Hermetic sacred geometry rests on the axiom "as above so below" which came to Europe with Giordano Bruno and his reading of the Egyptian Corpus Hermeticum in the Renaissance. This activity questioning traditional Christianity led the Pope to burn Bruno at the stake in front of Saint Peter's in Rome in the anno 1600 of our domini. Bruno was executed for such heretical observations as that the stars are a long way away, now seen as the logical basis of the modern assumption that we have one universe that obeys coherent consistent laws of nature, making Bruno a martyr for science.

Now I know 'as above so below', or the Biblical 'on earth as in heaven', have traditionally been misinterpreted as solely magical concepts, as the basis of astrology and miracles. However, that is a very limited and incorrect reading.

Rather, with the great genius Leonardo Da Vinci, we should assume that microcosms reflect macrocosms, that the universe obeys a complex chaos of fractal geometry, that man is a model of the world, with our blood and breath circulating like ocean currents and tides. Such renaissance philosophy enabled the unity of science and spirituality, seen in the accurate stellar anatomy of The Last Supper fresco by Leonardo.

The modern separation of science from spirit occurred as a result of atheist dogma, and sits at the psychological root of the modern epidemic of mental illness, as a main social cause of alienation, depression, anxiety and loneliness.

Science found the old idea that we are intrinsically connected to the cosmos as part of a single whole difficult to square with the method of isolating the individual enquiring subject from the objective facts of nature.

Hence the modern myth of the individual, with its indifference to belonging to a community, is closely associated with the rejection of hermetic mysticism, and abandonment of the original logic of scientific law, as above so below.

To paraphrase Gandalf and channel Newton, one law to rule them all.

Edited 5/11 for clarity.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sat Nov 04, 2017 8:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens
Penelope wrote:
"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual."

Some philosophers of religion go so far as to claim that awe is one of the "primitive" (i.e. not complex, not culturally mediated) ways of encountering the ground of being. There is no subject-object split when we are genuinely in awe, and we step out of the framework of manipulation, (where we would be calculating how we might put this thing to use).
Quote:
"So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or of acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr."
It isn't all about the awe, but I think most times of direct empathy (another way of connecting with the ground of being) will leave us with some of the feeling of awe. Nor is it just amazement - "I didn't know I had that in me" is not always a positive experience of awe. Sometimes it is a wretched experience of guilt or shame, for example.
Quote:
The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.
The usual problem is considered to be the "disenchantment" of the world. Most of us, if we see an apparition or hear a voice, will immediately interpret it as a mental construct - an hallucination. And so it is, but the world feels different to people in less indoctrinated societies who interpret such experiences as experiences of external reality.

The problem I have with science as a source of awe is that most people are cut off from it. How many people can hold in their mind even a semblance of Maxwell's Equations, much less of Quantum Electro Dynamics? You can tell me how long the gravity waves have been propagating through space in order to confirm the existence of gravity waves to us, but my sense of awe is reduced to "wow, that's a distance way further than I can possibly imagine" which is pretty much true for the distance to Alpha Centauri as well.

Basically, if you need science to have a sense of elation and humility combined, you are probably going to have a pretty prosaic existence.



Last edited by Harry Marks on Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:03 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens
NDT wrote:
According to Christian teachings of the day, God controlled the heavens, rendering them unknowable to our feeble mortal minds. When Newton breached this philosophical barrier by rendering all motion comprehensible and predictable, some theologians criticized him for leaving nothing for the Creator to do.

...This universality of physical laws drives scientific discovery like nothing else. And gravity was just the beginning.

I'm sure religious people still think there is quite a bit for the Creator to do. :?

Tyson describes several vast journeys of from the big bang to current times. However he also casts scientific discovery itself as a great adventure, considering all we have learned and the vast amount we still do not understand. I don't find those explorations prosaic at all, but I s'pose they can't satisfy everyone...



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Post Re: Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens
"Nature and Nature's Laws lay hid in Night: God said, 'Let Newton be!' and all was light." Alexander Pope's proposed epitaph for Sir Isaac Newton.

I can think on not better beginning for a discussion of this chapter. Newton was truly one of the great minds of his, or any time. The laws of gravity and of motion; calculus; the "Principia Mathematica". I could go on. The universality of these principles changed our world, and the way we thought about it forever. In my discussion of Chapter 1, I quoted Newton's "If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Newton himself became one of those giants.

Tyson's section of this chapter on disagreement among scientists brought to mind the British astronomer Fred Hoyle, who while he coined the term, never accepted the "Big Bang" theory of the universe. He opted instead for a "Steady State" universe. While accepting that galaxies are moving away from each other, he posited that new galaxies formed in the resulting empty space in what he called the "C (creation) field," an area of negative pressure.

Finally, having lived in one of those states (Texas) which is continually offering "Creation Science" as an alternative to evolution, I close with the following anecdote. When I was in college, one of my math professors told this story; whether it is true or apocryphal I do not know. A state legislator in an unnamed midwestern state, believing that the mathematical constant pi (3.14159...) was "too complex for students" actually introduced a bill establishing this value (in his state) at 3.0000... Fortunately, his collegues did not support him.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens
Whilst realising that the numbers and theories involved are vast and to my mind, unfathomable. I do see what this chapter covers, is that the same basic laws of physics are not only universal but cosmic. Except for, light, it would seem. Light doesn't behave scientifically. I am inexplicably pleased about light.

I read a work some years ago by Imrat Khan (????). It was about light and how it behaves. I didn't understand the book and I don't pretend to, but it was somehow, pleasing and absorbing. I'll check the correct name of author and book title if I may.

The Music of Life - Omega Uniform Edition of the Teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Found it: Seems it was about sound not light, but I'm remembering light because my husband and I had a heated discussion about 'light' waves when I was trying to get my head around the book.


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Post Re: Ch. 2: On Earth as in the Heavens
Many of those kinds of discussions shed more heat than music.



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