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is not natural
This is Part 2 of the XL Series on UNITY.
Thanks to the astounding advances of modern science, it’s easy for educated people to chalk up the wonders of our world to “Mother Nature” without batting an eye.
This shouldn’t surprise us though.
Nature is naturally perceived as natural.
It’s just the way things are. Always have been. Always will be.
It’s the way of the world.
It’s normal, people. Get over it.
Most people have not been taught to appreciate the implications of the existence of a set of elegant mathematical formulas that describe how all stuff works anywhere in our known universe — let alone the real possibility that there be a single formula that would unify all natural phenomena in one fell swoop of the pen with the long sought after “Unified Theory of Everything”.
Just as scientists and lay people alike need basic science educations, we should all be trained to also feel, “whoa — isn’t it magical that our world works so beautifully according to relatively simple rules that our 3-pound brains can more or less comprehend?!”
As we started to explore in Part 1 of this series, science is an astoundingly powerful discipline to systematically suggest, test and tweak mathematical models that coherently describe measurable, natural phenomena.
That said, science isn’t everything.
Science will never be able to explain why natural phenomena are unified in the first place.
In other words: it’s beyond the scope of the scientific method to explain why nature can be understood through the scientific method.
Science can explain how stuff works, but it can’t explain why we live in a world that can be explained, as opposed to a world of completely random, nonsensical chaos.
Science starts with the assumption that if you study the world, you will uncover a deep, unifying logic that can help us reliably predict how things will function in the future based on how we’ve observed them functioning in the past and present. Given the successes of science, this has proven to be a very good assumption. However, once we find this deep, unifying logic we should bear in mind that humans didn’t invent it. We discovered it. This unifying, deep logic was buried there long before scientists set out to unearth it.
As awesome as science is — isn’t Nature, which science studies, that much more so?
Let’s take do a quick fly-by of some of the ways we can hear the hum of Oneness in the universe:
Consider how ridiculously cool it is that we can study the way physical reality works on Planet Earth, and it can help us understand how things work not just on other planets, but also other solar systems, and even other galaxies.
For thousands of years, humans have pursued what was first just an intuition that everything in the world could be broken down into common essential elements. The ancients believed that there were four: earth, fire, wind and water. By now, we’ve identified 118, which are magnificently organized by the number of protons they contain in their nucleus. Since the universe is all made of the same stuff that works according to the same rules, by studying the colors of light that come from those planets and stars, we can figure out what they’re made of from the comfort of our living rooms on our laptops.
Not only can we see interstellar objects, the space race has motivated the human race to successfully deploy 14 moving rovers to collect mineral specimens on extraterrestrial bodies — so far, on the moon, Mars, and an asteroid called 162173 Ryugu.
Guess what? The laws of “Earth physics” and “Earth chemistry” still apply to the moon, Mars and 162173 Ryugu.
Biologists are traditionally the most antagonistic towards religion. And yet, the ongoing study of the diversity, interconnectedness and evolution of life on Earth reveals a unity of life that is breathtaking. The trillion or so species in our biosphere are interrelated, and use the same RNA and DNA technologies to reproduce. MIT Biophysicist and Orthodox Jew, Jeremy England has a compelling theory that even inanimate particles can be thought of as “living” from a certain perspective, and operate with the same principles of thermodynamics that you and I do (here’s a link to his book).
Whether or not his report was accurate, a former US Air Force intelligence officer testified in front of Congress about a month ago that the United States government had in its possession the biological remains of an extraterrestrial spaceship pilot (a.k.a. an “alien”). Aliens aside, just the notion that we have human medical professionals and biologists on Earth who can run an autopsy on an alien, and with enough time, be able to compare and contrast how its body works relative to how Earth biology works is as a testament to science, but an even greater testament to the unity of the cosmos.
Again, although for historical reasons we think about science and religion as archenemies, we should pause to smile at the fact that science takes as its starting point that the universe is unified. Universities are filled with scholars chipping away at their little corners of the universe, and entrepreneurs are running around trying to make a buck by employing and exploiting their discoveries. In our complex world, it’s easy to lose sight of how interconnected this body of wisdom is.
A marketing team tries to sell their product using the principles of behavioral economics. Economists, in turn, explain phenomena in the markets using concepts from psychology and sociology. Ultimately, however, what happens in the human mind has to be correlated to what happens in the brain and is modeled by neuroscience. Neuroscience itself, though, emerges from a confluence of principles of computer science, biology and biochemistry, which themselves rest upon logic and organic chemistry. “Orgo,” as it is called in premed programs, describes the formation and behavior of proteins and amino acids, which, of course, has to be explained by the laws of physical chemistry and physics. And all of the sciences use mathematics, which is the language of logic itself.
Everything is connected.
Physics is very much at the bottom of this pyramid of knowledge. All the laws of physics are believed today to be governed by four fundamental forces. And as we mentioned, the “holy grail” of physics is the “Unified Theory of Everything” which would elegantly combine all of these into one formula. Who knows if we will find it, but the very premise and belief that gets a physicist out of bed in the morning is “there’s probably a way to figure out how these two very different-looking things work together in harmony.”
Back in the day, every scholar did interdisciplinary work. From Aristotle to Leonardo de Vinci to Benjamin Franklin — all of them had expertise in multiple areas in the arts and sciences. Their curiosities couldn’t help saw connections between everything they learned about the world.
As science has revealed an increasingly complex world, scientists had to specialize and sub-specialize because very few people could truly be experts in multiple fields. However, we’re finally getting to a time in human history that the sciences are starting to converge again, and a grand unified view of nature is emerging, and interdisciplinary work is again on the rise.
Oneness pervades the universe.
Zechariah the prophet described a day in which the name “God” will be synonymous with Oneness Itself:
There is no word for “Nature” in the Written Torah. The reason for this is likely because Nature isn’t a “thing,” but rather the way humans can more easily think about all the rules of the world as one.
The Sages however coined an interesting term: “Teva-טבע.” The word “teva” means stamp, as in to stamp and leave an impression. People would sign their name with signet rings on wax, which is why the term for ring, still today, is “tabaat-טבעת.”
The Nature scientists have worked so hard, and continue to work to uncover is a signature.
It is nonsense to think about the unity of the universe and not consider where — or rather Who it came from.
Science still has a way to go, but we can already start to make out the unmistakable impression of unity on our universe.
At the very least, we should start asking questions if we haven’t already.
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