The Answers—to the Biggest Questions
by Gary Campbell
Question: Why am I here?
Answer: Because your parents gave birth to you.
Now, while this answer is satisfactory, it's not satisfying. Let me elaborate just a bit. Everything, including the Cosmos itself, is here through a combination of chance and necessity. We may never know the combination that gave rise to the Cosmos, but we can describe the combination that gave rise to you and many other things.
Some billions of generations ago, your most distant ancestor was among the first organic entities, capable of replication, to exist on this earth. A combination of chance and necessity gave rise to it, and the billions of descendants that followed it, culminating eventually with you. You are luckier than you will ever know.
Next Question: Why is the Cosmos here?
Answer: There is no answer to this "question." But, it's worth discussing why. Unlike the first question, which has an immediate but unsatisfying answer, this question cannot be answered, simply because we are in no position to understand either the question or the answer. The answer is not "because God created the cosmos." That answer begs an infinite regress of questions (why is God here) that get more and more beyond our ability to understand. There is no point in asking a question that is completely outside one's context. Without a proper context, a question is meaningless and any answer is incomprehensible.
Next Question: What is the nature of the Cosmos?
Answer: Actually, "Nature" is our word for the answer. But, we can elaborate a bit. The nature of the Cosmos is what scientific knowledge is all about.
Our (mankind's) scientific quest is only a few hundred years old. Before that time (and still carried on by a large percentage of mankind), the quest for answers was quite unscientific. It involved (and, for some people, it still involves) the supernatural.
A reader who believes in the supernatural has two choices: Seek your answers to the big questions on someone else's blog, or continue reading here to see if you can become convinced to suspend your faith and belief — convinced that your own observations and reasoned conclusions are a better basis for what you accept as the truth.
Observation and reasoning out a conclusion are skills that take time to learn. You certainly weren't born with them, and evolution has not provided you with a perfect toolkit. Improving that toolkit is one of the most important responsibilities that each of us owes ourselves.
OK, you've elected to read on. I hope, that implies that you are willing to entertain that the answer to this question — one of the biggest of the questions — doesn't require a belief in the supernatural. There be no ghosts here.
Question: What is the nature of the Universe?
Answer: Let’s define a technical distinction between Universe and Cosmos. Our Universe is defined as the space we can (theoretically, and both directly and indirectly) observe. Our Cosmos is the All and Everything that contains our Universe. We cannot even theoretically observe everything in the Cosmos. The distinction is that the Cosmos contains all Universes, but a given Universe may be contained within others.
Our universe is a 3 dimensional surface on a 4 dimensional sphere (or some approximation of that geometry as seen from any given location). Our universe is a black hole that contains black holes. All black holes are simply a volume of 3 dimensional space that contains sufficient mass (energy) to establish a gravitational force that causes an escape velocity equal to the speed of light.
Given a a photon at a particular location in the universe, it is traveling in a particular direction at the speed of light. It is traveling on a geodesic curve that is the closed surface of its universe as defined at that location.
Photons come in all “sizes.” Each photon has a quantum value that defines its energy (mass) and its frequency (wavelength). All of these characteristics vary as a function of each other. Given one, the others are determined. The “size” of a photon is a function of its wavelength. The smaller the wavelength, the larger the mass/energy of a photon. Therefore, as photons get smaller and smaller, they get more and more massive. At some point, the density (mass/size) becomes sufficient to make the escape velocity from that photon equal to the speed of light. When that point is reached, the photon is trapped in a black hole of its own making. What do we call such a photon? There are two very common types: electrons and positrons. Once these facts are recognized, all other phenomena in our Universe are derivative.
Question: What is the biggest problem we face?
Answer: Over population. Most of the world's problems are directly caused by overpopulation, or they are exacerbated by it. Unless we hack at the root of this problem, we are not going to solve it, and in failing to do so, we shall fail to solve almost every other problem we face.
Population will cease to grow at some point. The only question is will it cease to grow because of the arms we export, or will it cease to grow by benefit of the family planning we export? In my opinion, anyone who would support the former and stand in the way of the latter is evil beyond description.
Question: How can I tell right from wrong?
Answer: It is right for you to do in a given situation what you would have others do in that situation. To behave much differently from how you would have others behave is wrong. Notice that this only covers what it is right for you to do. If you would prefer that no one should have the power to dictate to you what is right or wrong, then it is wrong for you to dictate to others what is right or wrong.
Next Question: What is evil?
Answer: Evil is the willful destruction of a higher life form, or intelligence, or the fruits that may have issued from either. The perpetrator of evil must be capable of, and performing, a willful act. The destructive nature of the action must be intended. There are a lot of implications here, but I'll let you mull them over for yourself.
Next Question: What is life?
Answer: I've answered this question at length elsewere. Here I will revisit the answer briefly. Life is the collection of all entities that are alive. An entity is alive if it is able to use information. "Use" means, in some sense, to put to use, not merely process or handle. A single cell uses information. A virus probably doesn't. Today's computers handle information, but they don't use it. At some point, tomorrow's computers probably will.
Next Question: Does everything happen for a reason?
Answer: No. Virtually everything happens through a combination of chance and necessity. Some things happen through a causal chain of events, but this is not the same as "for a reason." A very small fraction of what happens is the result of reason. Things that "happen for a reason" result from an intelligent entity acting with a purpose. It's a gazillion times more likely that a defective observation is responsible, than that anything has ever happened as a result of the supernatural.
Question: How can I lose weight?
Answer: I promised a more complete answer to this question when I felt it was personally verified. After 6-month's of experience, here it is!
Question: Why am I so funny looking?
Answer: Did you ever take a really good look at someone's ear? It's ludicrous. Look at people's noses. Beaks sticking out of their faces. Even the young face of the world's most beautiful model is made up of parts that, if contemplated long enough, are truly funny looking. And you are different how? Ah, but the question was why? Forgive me, but I just wanted to establish that you are well justified in asking.
While not an answer, the first observation is that you are not alone. We are all funny looking. The good news is that, even though each species has evolved an absolutely ludicrous appearance, we have also evolved to think of ourselves as beautiful. Enjoy the illusion. I'm sure it wasn't easy to achieve.
As to why — that's how evolution works. Your funny looks and the fact that someone loves the way you look (your mother?) are the surest signs of proof that evolution was responsible. How could anyone conclude that the human body was the result of careful thought and intelligent design? Say! That's the next question.
Next Question: How could anyone conclude that the human body was the result of careful thought and intelligent design?
Answer: Because they have accepted on faith one answer, a first cause, for every question. When you know the answer, there's absolutely no excuse for not getting it.
This divides people into three groups. Those who believe they have the answer almost without understanding the question, those who first consider the question and work toward an answer with logic and reason, and (the largest group) those who muddle along using a bit of both.
Next Question: Why do people have so many strange urges?
Answer: Reflecting back on it, you've got to admit, a sequence of strange urges is why you are here now reading this. It's a fact: We are full of urges. We get the overpowering urge to eat, sleep, and have sex all the time.
Did you ever step back from yourself and watch how you sail through a day? It's only at the time you actually begin a sequence of actions that lead to an objective that you are gripped by the urge to go down that path. Later, you don't remember the urge, you only remember that you decided to do it.
Our urges are very important. They are as serious as life and death. It's not impossible for any of us to understand our urges and those of others, because we all share a common set, just as we share a common set of body parts. Our complex of urges differs just as our physical appearance differs. Even the performance of a trained behavior is probably brought on by an urge to do those things we've spent the time and effort to do well.
Once again, evolution is responsible for our complex of urges. Over the long history of our development, the urges we have are those that enabled our ancestors to survive and multiply.
Next Question: Which came first, God or man?
Answer: A strong belief in God dictates that God came first. But, if you follow the evidence, man must have come first. There is considerable evidence that the god-concept evolved along with man. There is no, repeat no, evidence that God exists. That is, evidence acceptable according to the rules for doing science. The rules used in our courts of law for accepting evidence are also pretty good. But bad rules for accepting evidence are in abundance. Rules for accepting evidence need close scrutiny before they should be used. We should take this issue up again later.
Next Question: Is Secular Humanism a bona fide religion?
Answer: It depends on your definition of religion. If you define religion as the foundation for a person's world view, then yes. However, if you believe that a world view can proceed from the absence of religion, then Secular Humanism is not a religion.
This brings up the fact that there are two basic ways of developing a world view. For some it is black or white — all one or the other. For others it is a tendency to lean in one direction or the other. The first of these two ways is to accept as true that which comes from some tradition and set of authorities. The second way is to accept as true that which accords with your own observations and conclusions. The first way is based on faith in a certain tradition and the authorities linked to it. The second way is based on a skepticism of all traditions and authorities, factoring them in with other observations, and considering them along with all the other data when making conclusions.
The first way often states the truth in a way that cannot be tested. The second way demands that the truth be stated in the form of testable theories and models which can be shown independently (by anyone) to be consistent with reality.
To my thinking, religions appear to involve the first type of world view, and Secular Humanism involves the second. This is the significant distinction between traditional religions and Secular Humanism, and it doesn't matter what you call simply a world view and what you call a religion. However, the choice of words seems to matter a great deal to some people and under some circumstances. Therefore, any status, rights, or privileges granted to a religion should also be granted to Secular Humanism.
Question: What would be a fair and simple tax code?
Answer: Only two things should be taxed to raise money for government. Wealth and royalties. Wealth is the measure of the assets under one's control. It is more like gross worth, not net worth. Royalties are income derived from the reproduction and sale of intellectual property. The first n units sold should not be taxed (to offset development costs). The cost of reprodution and sales, of course, should also be deducted. Both of these types of taxation should be exponentially progressive. The government also needs the power to tax and subsidize anything that makes a significant social difference. This program should pay for itself, and not be a source of income for the government.