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Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told 
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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
LanDroid wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Penelope wrote:
Isn't this why the author is calling it a story?
I think he is calling it a story in order to claim that the astronomical explanation of the universe is a greater story than the story of Jesus Christ, which is the origin of his chapter title, The Greatest Story Ever Told. Christianity tells the story of creation in Genesis to explain why human beings are important and why we are immoral. But Tyson aims to replace the Christian fantasy with scientific knowledge. It is just quite hard, as Carl Sagan noted in his book Pale Blue Dot, to explain the story of why humans are significant in objective terms when the universe is so big and old.
Yes, well said. I think it's Mr. Tulip who says on occasion that until science comes up with overarching stories or myths that inspire awe and common people can use for understanding, it will have little power over religion. This amazing story is one attempt at that. The story of evolution is another that can inspire awe as one considers a personal unbroken line of ancestors back to primordial life. Perhaps Tyson will have other such stories in this book. However, as you imply, I doubt any scientific stories or "myths" can compete with an invisible powerful deity who is working to improve your life and grant eternal happiness.

Hi LanDroid, thanks. The problem I see in Tyson’s “story” here is the need for intermediate stages in the structure of time between our mundane lives and the grand tale of the origin and extent of the universe as revealed to modern astrophysics.

One great astronomical story is the orbital drivers of climate, how the stable patterns of earth’s spin and orbit lead over thousands of years to regular patterns of glaciation, which allowed the great story of the peopling of the earth as told by Stephen Oppenheimer, with people moving around the planet out of Africa over the last hundred millennia as the sea went up and down and the ice advanced and retreated.

Another structure of cosmic time, stepping up through the aeons to the scale of millions of years, is the geological framework of plate tectonics. The great book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe explains that without tectonics, and without Jupiter playing interference, blocking comets like an offensive lineman, life would not be possible on earth. That geological structure of time creates a connection between the astronomical birth of earth and human concern, extending over the millions of years of evolution.

Climate and geology tell stories that relate to human concern, whereas somehow the billion year astronomical aeons of the cosmic microwave background radiation, the singularity at the origin of the Big Bang and the accelerating expansion of space time are harder to relate to immediate terrestrial priorities.

Each of these scales of time nest within each other, millennial, million and billion years. My impression is that the millennial scale is a bit too geocentric to capture the interest of astrophysicists like Tyson, which is a great shame since there is so much mistaken thinking out there about orbital drivers of climate change.

You suggest I imply science can’t compete against myths. On a minor point of pedantry, I’m not sure the inference you draw here was actually implied in my comments. I do think that science can compete, since Christian myths have anomalies that will explode their paradigm. For example, Christianity maintains that it has a focus on truth, which means Christians should respect evidence and logic when it comes to analysing Bible stories, but they often don’t.

This cognitive dissonance within faith is not sustainable, since it puts the Christian faith into disrepute in the broader secular world, due to its incoherence. It is precisely because science will be able to provide encompassing myths, once it gets its aeons in a row, that it will be possible to see the Christian creation stories as symbolically meaningful, even while they are recognised as literally false.


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 Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
Mr. Tulip wrote:
You suggest I imply science can’t compete against myths. On a minor point of pedantry, I’m not sure the inference you draw here was actually implied in my comments.

OK I think it may have been Ant who was saying such things, not you. Sorry 'bout that...

NDT wrote:
Without the billion-and-one to a billion imbalance between matter and antimatter, all mass in the universe would have self-annihilated, leaving a cosmos made of photons and nothing else—the ultimate let-there-be-light scenario.

Now with even more precise measurements, we may have a major problem - check this headline.
Quote:
Universe shouldn’t exist, CERN physicists conclude
...Physicists at CERN in Switzerland have made the most precise measurement ever of the magnetic moment of an anti-proton – a number that measures how a particle reacts to magnetic force – and found it to be exactly the same as that of the proton but with opposite sign.

...The new measurement is precise to nine significant digits, the equivalent of measuring the circumference of the Earth to within a few centimeters, and 350 times more precise than any previous measurement.

“All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist,” says Christian Smorra, a physicist at CERN’s Baryon–Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment (BASE) collaboration. “An asymmetry must exist here somewhere but we simply do not understand where the difference is.”

...The standard model predicts the Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter – but that’s a combustive mixture that would have annihilated itself, leaving nothing behind to make galaxies or planets or people.

10/23/17
https://cosmosmagazine.com/physics/univ ... s-conclude

So how is it we exist? Notice Tyson is talking about a minute imbalance in the amount of matter Vs. anti-matter. So all properties could be identical and the universe would not have self-annihilated into pure light. :chatsmilies_com_92:



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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
Robert Tulip wrote:
I do think that science can compete, since Christian myths have anomalies that will explode their paradigm. For example, Christianity maintains that it has a focus on truth, which means Christians should respect evidence and logic when it comes to analysing Bible stories, but they often don’t.

This cognitive dissonance within faith is not sustainable, since it puts the Christian faith into disrepute in the broader secular world, due to its incoherence.


The broader secular world likes to think it can get by without stories embodying values. No heros, no sense of karma, no exemplification of character.

What we have instead is an abundance of villains. Joseph Kony, Vlad the Putin, Torquemada, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Harvey Weinstein, Lord Jeff Amherst (who first sent smallpox blankets to the Native Americans), Cortez, Nathan Bedford Forrest, now Columbus and Robert E. Lee, the pirate Henry Morgan, (Saint) Thomas More, Woody Allen, and on and on the list goes. I could make a point about incoherence from that list, but I have a different point in mind.

Just as language works through a "mother tongue" and so a viable culture will continue to pass on its language, culture is passed on in the home. If there is no coherent culture to pass on in the home, then the fragments will add up to something less than mythic force.

Right now the biggest cleavage in cultures all over the world is between the cosmopolitan culture of the educated and the provincial culture of the base population. Between English and the local mother tongue, in most parts of the world.

Religion has some problems among the cosmopolitans. Not among the base populations. Religion is thriving there (except in Europe, and in China). But it is also responsible for tribalist rivalries in the base populations.

Cosmopolitans are dedicated to the culture that really begins at university, or perhaps high school. Critical as to common values, insisting on facts, accepting of complexity and fragmentation and human fallibility - they have to be, because that is what work is like in the world of the highly educated. But parents cannot pass that on. Even if they wanted to, they couldn't, because it is always based within a specialized discipline which you can't learn til you reach the age of formal thinking, around 16 to 18. (Notice how often the military, or art, or the theater, or engineering get passed down in families these days. These are not just jobs, they are entire worldviews, and some of that can be passed on in families.)

They often tell themselves that they cannot accept religion because its way of telling stories is based in outmoded, unbelievable images. But really it is because a critical view of values, a priority on facts, and acceptance of complexity and fragmentation are not in the old mythology. Sam Harris and Richard Feynman and George Carlin are the new heroes, except they aren't. What five year old can think, "I want to be like George Carlin when I grow up"?

I suspect that when the pace of economic change has finished slowing down, and the world more or less looks like today's Wuhan or Curitiba, new cultural syntheses will show up in the homes around the globe. But they are more likely to look like stories of the supernatural than like George Carlin. Provincial, mother-tongue cultures will have the strongest hold on people's hearts and minds, and cosmopolitan culture will have to accept the world not understanding how things really work. The elites must be satisfied with steering the technical processes and having genuine spiritual and mystical input into religion, but they will have to give up on telling the world how to think about matters of the heart. And that's a good thing, if you ask me.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
Before I begin, I must admit to a mea culpa. :blush: I volunteered to be discussion leader on this book, then dropped the ball. In my defense, I have been helping my son-in-law and daughter with some remodeling of their home, so have been distracted. I promise to do better in the future.

First of all, a big "Thank Ypu" to all who have participated.

I have read the first three chapters of Dr.Tyson's book, and have just finished re-reading Chapter One and the postings herein. It seems that the book is a success, if it promotes comments and discussion like I see here. :) I admit, some of the content leaves me puzzled; but again, we must consider the title: "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry." It is clearly Tyson's intent to inspire us to delve deeper into the subject. (see the Preface). As we learn more about the universe (multiverse?), our perspective changes. When I was a boy, a reference book showed a picture of our galaxy and proclaimed it to be "the universe." If we could resurrect Isaac Newton, his head would probably spin at the idea of quarks, hadrons, photons, leptons, etc. Science builds on the contributions of the past, but seeks to go beyond them, and not be hide bound because "Aristotle (Plato, Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton) said so. True we look to those individuals; Newton himself said, "It I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." But they help us see further. And they were not infallible. To quote another Isaac (Asimov), "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...' "

An aside: Dr. Tyson's chapter headings do what they are supposed to do, grab your attention. True "The Greatest Story every told is a biblical allusion, but is not found in the Bible itself. The only refernce I could find on the internet was to the 1965 movie with that title, a purported life story of Jesus. It is perhaps better known for its plethora of cameo performers (John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Pat Boone, Van Heflin, Martin Landau, Angela Lansbury, Dorothy McGuire, Sidney Poitier, Donald Pleasence, and others) than for its accuracy.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
NDT wrote:
We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out - and we have only just begun.

Chapter 1 ends on a high note.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
LanDroid wrote:
NDT wrote:
We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out - and we have only just begun.

Chapter 1 ends on a high note.

Yes, this stardust melody of human life, what Hoagy Carmichael called ‘the memory of love’s refrain’, is central to the story of science. Earlier in this thread I said “in scientific thought the universe reflects upon itself in symbols, and this complex activity means human flourishing is intrinsically good.”

Considering planet earth, and therefore human life, as flotsam of the sun is a way to expand Tyson’s idea here of "the universe figuring itself out" in a way that can provide meaning to the old religious idea from Genesis that man is made in the image of God.

The mathematics of physics is among the most complex evolved structures on our planet, and involves the universe itself organising through the cumulative process of natural evolution to reflect its natural laws in the symbolic images of human thought.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
Robert Tulip wrote:
Yes, this stardust melody of human life, what Hoagy Carmichael called ‘the memory of love’s refrain’, is central to the story of science. Earlier in this thread I said “in scientific thought the universe reflects upon itself in symbols, and this complex activity means human flourishing is intrinsically good.”

You're going to think me cynical, but this attitude of seeing human flourishing as intrinsically good is just what we'd expect if natural selection had equipped us with mental structures that would effectively increase our numbers. Also, that our species has a significance on some "cosmic" level is an impulse that can give us license to do whatever seems to be best for our species, regardless of what would promote the welfare of the rest of life. I think we need to be less full of ourselves. That's a reason I'm attracted to Thoreau and Robinson Jeffers. Don't worry, we can still celebrate humanity, but we need to beware of species chauvinism.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
DWill? If we followed the point of view that the procreation of our species was the most important issue, then we would exterminate all that was not uniform and correct in our genes: so people with Down's syndrome would have to go, for instance, but people like this this are loveable and loved, we know it isn't sensible or scientific, but our emotions are more powerful than our scientific rationale. Our HUMANITY......not sensible....but the only thing about us worth preserving.....perhaps? Maybe?

I think I am trying to say that love is irrational but it is beautiful and powerful and we need to find the balance. If we were purely scientific beings, we would be zombies...,if we were purely emotional we would be like cobwebs. Balance is what we need....yoga....means balance. X


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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
Penelope wrote:
DWill? If we followed the point of view that the procreation of our species was the most important issue, then we would exterminate all that was not uniform and correct in our genes: so people with Down's syndrome would have to go, for instance, but people like this this are loveable and loved, we know it isn't sensible or scientific, but our emotions are more powerful than our scientific rationale. Our HUMANITY......not sensible....but the only thing about us worth preserving.....perhaps? Maybe?

I think I am trying to say that love is irrational but it is beautiful and powerful and we need to find the balance. If we were purely scientific beings, we would be zombies...,if we were purely emotional we would be like cobwebs. Balance is what we need....yoga....means balance. X

Hey there Penelope! Maybe the key is what we choose to mean by "flourishing." I was trying to disagree with Robert's blanket statement, which I thought could be taken to mean that we need only to refer to benefits to us when pursuing any course of action. Example: animal medical research. If torturing animals within experiments leads to advances in human medicine, one line of thinking says we are fully justified. Another example is elimination of species habitat, and thus species, due to the extension of our own habitat. We don't need to be concerned about snail darters, goes a line of thinking on that matter. It goes against our ingrained, hardwired natures to not pursue every perceived benefit that our unprecedented technological ability makes possible. But I think we need to step back often, calculate the effect of our actions on the whole, and put the brakes on, practice some self-denial. We deceive ourselves when we say we can have it both ways--take care of ourselves in whatever way we choose while not impinging on the rest of life around us.

I was trying to say that the procreation of our species is not the most important issue, but rather a large part of the problem. Sorry if that didn't come through.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Yes, this stardust melody of human life, what Hoagy Carmichael called ‘the memory of love’s refrain’, is central to the story of science. Earlier in this thread I said “in scientific thought the universe reflects upon itself in symbols, and this complex activity means human flourishing is intrinsically good.”

You're going to think me cynical, but this attitude of seeing human flourishing as intrinsically good is just what we'd expect if natural selection had equipped us with mental structures that would effectively increase our numbers.
I take a Biblical view on what is required for human flourishing, based on the core ethical axiom of Jesus Christ that the last are first in the Kingdom of God. That means that human flourishing, creating heaven on earth, intrinsically requires a focus on the least of the world, ranging from soils, bacteria and all biodiversity up to concern for the hungry, thirsty, poor, sick, imprisoned and refugees. Without climate stability humans cannot flourish, and without an ethical focus on the least of the world the climate will produce a repeat of the Permian Great Dying. Rev 11:18, the Bible saying that the wrath of God is against those who destroy the earth, means that human flourishing involves ecological concern.
DWill wrote:
Also, that our species has a significance on some "cosmic" level is an impulse that can give us license to do whatever seems to be best for our species, regardless of what would promote the welfare of the rest of life.
Cosmic significance is an idea that goes back to the Genesis theme of dominion, commonly misinterpreted to mean that human distinctiveness arising from language means spirit is above nature and we have a right to destroy nature. Rather than such a destructive concept of domination, the Biblical vision is about wise stewardship, nurturing resources to sustain growth and complexity. It may “seem to be best for our species” to add ten cubic kilometres of carbon to the air every year, treating the atmosphere as an open sewer, but it is not best, since keeping along that line will stratify the sea and kill us all. Not flourishing.
DWill wrote:
I think we need to be less full of ourselves. That's a reason I'm attracted to Thoreau and Robinson Jeffers.
Yes, excellent point. I have not heard of Jeffers though. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_Jeffers#Context says “Jeffers believed that transcending conflict required human concerns to be de-emphasized in favor of the boundless whole.” How I would react to all that is to say we need to distinguish between conscious ego and subconscious id in considering our selves. We need to be less full of conscious ego and more full of subconscious id, which is where we connect to what Jeffers calls the boundless whole. As the Indian mystics beloved by Thoreau would say, thou art that.
DWill wrote:
Don't worry, we can still celebrate humanity, but we need to beware of species chauvinism.

Good point, but it remains the case that humans have dominion and stewardship on our planet, a power conferred by language, and face the challenge of using our talents and gifts wisely or going extinct.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told
Robert Tulip wrote:
Cosmic significance is an idea that goes back to the Genesis theme of dominion, commonly misinterpreted to mean that human distinctiveness arising from language means spirit is above nature and we have a right to destroy nature. Rather than such a destructive concept of domination, the Biblical vision is about wise stewardship, nurturing resources to sustain growth and complexity. It may “seem to be best for our species” to add ten cubic kilometres of carbon to the air every year, treating the atmosphere as an open sewer, but it is not best, since keeping along that line will stratify the sea and kill us all. Not flourishing.

That was eloquent. I'm not sure, though, that Genesis is really misinterpreted on the dominion injunction. Though I deplore the effects of seeing humans as primarily subduers, the larger lesson is that slavish adherence to any scripture can be bad. Of course, it really isn't Genesis, anyway, that gave us the idea that we must dominate. That's an idea that civilization grew up with and was sanctified in the Bible.
Quote:
Good point, but it remains the case that humans have dominion and stewardship on our planet, a power conferred by language, and face the challenge of using our talents and gifts wisely or going extinct.

Human adaptability makes it very doubtful that climate change will cause us to become extinct. Our persistence isn't the point, though. The point is whether our values really extend to what we often give lip service to--the right to existence of all other living things. Today brings news that the Republican Congress may be able to succeed in wiping out protections to prevent extinctions.



Last edited by DWill on Tue Nov 07, 2017 7:34 am, edited 1 time in total.



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