The Wonders of the Impassive Universe

Katherine and I watched an episode of her new favourite programme last night. I love that she’s so fascinated by the cosmos (and it’s certainly nothing to do with ex-popstar Prof Cox, his tousled hair and perfect teeth).

I too found it fascinating, and loved how, rather than immediately or obviously separate “religion” from science and cosmology, Brian Cox identified them both as earnestly seeking knowledge of that beyond ourselves and how we fit in to that beyond.

What I was less impressed with was his source of meaning in life; our ability to add to the “consciousness of universe”, the universe becoming self-aware.

Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Especially with a shimmering soundtrack and a fringe blowing in your eyes. But underneath the well-produced drama, the basis for that supposed “significance” is very weak indeed. Considered in a different light, the universe seems more like a self-indulgent client of a psycho-therapist: “whatever happens, I’m going to cool down and evaporate into nothingness. But, y’know, in the meantime it’d be lovely to really get to know myself.”

This strikes me as another example of scientists trying to use science to fill gaps that science wasn’t designed for. “If we make it seem exciting enough, we can argue that understanding = significance.” The problem is, it’s just not true.

One of the most fundamental physical laws of our universe, gravity, teaches us a vital philosophical lesson: that the universe draws things together. Atoms, particles, people. Thousands of years ago, we learnt something that some seem intent on denying to this day; that meaning is found in relationship.