Dumnezeul lui Darwin

În urmă cu mai bine de un an, am citit o carte care a însemnat enorm pentru evoluţia mea intelectuală. Cartea era scrisă de unul dintre cei mai mari biologi ai momentului, Kenneth Miller, şi se chema Finding Darwin’s God (Găsindu-l pe Dumnezeul lui Darwin). Nu pot să las ocazia asta să treacă fără a mă lăuda că după ce i-am citit cartea, am avut şi un foarte scurt schimb de emailuri cu dl. Miller, ceea ce la vremea respectivă  m-a făcut foarte fericit.

Acum, ce e interesant în legătură cu Miller şi cu cartea lui, e că acest domn biolog este şi un catolic practicant. În general, biologii nu prea sînt credincioşi, spre deosebire de fizicieni care în general sînt. Deşi e credincios, Miller a fost unul cel care a demontat argumente creaţionismului ştiinţific, jucînd un rol important în procesele în care se discuta ce anume să se predea în şcoli, evoluţionism sau creaţionism. Ştiţi foarte bine că în America toate se rezolvă cu procese. Recent citeam undeva că nişte spitale de acolo au dat în judecată nişte mari producători de tutun pentru că au tratat bolnavi care le fumaseră tutunul. Comic, nu-i aşa? Pe undeva pe acolo a fost uitat faptul fundamental că ţigara şi-o bagă fiecare sigur în gură, de bună-voie şi nesilit de nimeni, ca la căsătorie. (Nu vreau să insinuez că ar fi căsătoria o formă de sinucidere, deloc!)

Revenind la Dumnezeul lui Darwin, Miller, după ce demonta unul cîte unul toate argumentele creaţioniştilor, mai ales pe cele ale aşa numitului young earth creationism, arăta că Dumnezeu se implică în cursul evoluţiei printr-o misterioasă manipulare a ADN-ului la nivel cuantic. Genele, adică, fiind atît de mici, ar fi cumva susceptibile la influenţa fenomenelor cuantice. Cartea a fost foarte bine primită în general, dar criticată pentru ideea asta, că evoluţia ar fi influenţată în vreun anume fel de sub-lumea cuantică. Azi dimineaţă, am dat peste un articol care poate fi citit aici în întregime  în care tocmai asta se argumenta. Mai exact, se arăta că ADN-ul poate discerne între anumite stări cuantice şi este influenţat de către acestea. Sigur, aici se termină bruma mea de ştiinţă, aşa că nu merg mai departe pentru că nu înţeleg mai mult. Mă mulţumesc doar să arăt că ce era pentru Miller calea, care acum cîţiva ani cînd a fost propusă a fost luată în rîs, prin care Dumnezeu acţionează într-un univers care altfel pare a fi condus de legi mai stricte sau mai haotice dar în orice caz implacabile, este confirmat de descoperirea asta recentă.

Mort și viu în același timp

Șiți tricourile care eu pe ele imprimat cu litere mari cîte un text care se vrea extrem de amuzant? Eu azi am văzut unul care probabil e cel mai amuzant dintre ele. Pe tricoul respectiv scria așa:

Schrodinger’s

Cat is dead

Tricoul ăsta e foarte amuzant din mai multe motive. Primul dintre ele este că foarte puțini se prind despre ce e vorba. Pisica lui Schrodinger e o metaforă folosită pentru a face cît de cît înțeles unul dintre cele mai mari paradoxuri ale științei moderne, și anume așa-numita interpretare de la Copenhaga.  Chestia asta se referă la comportamentul, obraznic, între noi fie vorba, al anumitor particule sub-atomice, care se presupune a fi influențat de observator. Adică, particulele alea se comportă într-un fel cînd sînt observate și în altfel cînd sînt de capul lor. Cam la fel ca pisicile. Cum a ajuns pisica în povestea asta? Pai Schrodinger a folosit-o pe post de cobai virtual. El și-a imaginat o pisică într-o cutie în care există o instalație ce poate elimina otravă, instalație care e declanșată de un sistem sofisticat care înregistrează starea unui atom radioactiv care se poate descompune sau nu : dacă se descompune, se declanșează sistemul  care ucide pisica, iar dacă nu, pisica trăiește.  Deci moartea pisicii depinde de comportamentul atomului care se poate descompune sau nu. Pînă nu e observat, nu știm care e de fapt starea lui, motiv pentru care pînă în momentul în care deschidem cutia, ne spune Schroidnger, pisica e de fapt și moartă și vie. Atenție, pisica respectivă, săraca de ea, nu e moartă sau vie, ci e și moartă și vie, căci la nivel cuantic o particulă poate să  fie în mai multe locuri în același timp (fizicienii numesc asa superpoziție ). Sigur, interpretarea de la Copenhaga nu e acceptată de toată lumea, dar pînă acum n-a reușit să explice nimeni altfel anumite experimente. Revenind la tricoul respectiv, îmi cer scuze de la un cititor mai știutor decît mine pentru toate inexactitățile științifice pe care poate le-am spus aici. Tot ce am vrut să fac eu a fost să spun de ce e amuzant tricoul acela, și e amuzant pentru că tranșează negru pe alb (de fapt nu mai știu ce culori erau), poate cel mai mare paradox al fizicii moderne. Mai e amuzant și pentru că, mi se pare mie, trimite la vorba lui Nietzsche, God is dead (Cat is dead), vorba asta atît de tragic de serioasă pe care tricoul acesta o face să pară comică.

Recapitulînd, tricoul despre care scriu este probabil cel mai amuzant din lume pentru că nu se prinde toată lumea de el (sic!), pentru că tranșează fără menajamente un paradox al fizicii cuantice și odată cu el și pisica lui Schordinger, și pentru că îl ia în balon pe Nietzsche.  Pentru un tricou, mi se pare că face destule. Aș vrea să-mi cumpăr și eu unul de undeva.

Why writers are the new gods

It is in some measure funny when one says that “red is the new pink” or the other way around. Or that “English is the new French” or “smart is the new sexy” as in the “The Big Bang theory” hilarious TV show. But it may not be as funny if one were to say that the writers are the new gods. Be that as it may, it is nevertheless true.

When I say writers I am referring, of course, not to everyone who knows how to write or has a blog (like me) or spends a considerable amount of time on Skype or other chat services, but to those who have obtained recognition as famous writers and have been read by millions of people or even to those who have not yet been recognized as such but are bound to be at some point in the future.

Some may object and say that we have other gods before writers, and in doing this may name movie stars, rock stars, football players and so on. While it may be true that these categories may be somehow above the mere mortals, that is, you and me, I would say that they are only semi-gods, that is, still pretty close to the human realm. A rock star may be idolatrized by many young people, but when he dies by overdose or pees on the crowd adoring him, like Jim Morrison, some may come to question his “divinity”. Football players are famous for their lack of brains, at least in some countries, and a god who isn’t smarter than his followers might have some problems legitimizing his transcendent position.

Now, taking up the issue more seriously, I argue that writers are indeed our modern gods and this for a number of reasons. First of all it has to do with their field of activity. Writers are masters of words. Today the Biblical narrative of the creation may not be so popular, but many may rember that in Genesis it is said that the world was created through the word of God. Now, a writer has to be, by definition, creative and his creativity can only be accounted for in the worlds he creates by his words. So a writer is in the very literal sense of the word a god who creates worlds by his words. Raskolnikov may not be an actual living person, but he is very real in the world created by Dostoevsky under the name of Crime and punishment, and Dostoevsky is very much a god in this particular work in all the possible meanings of the word. When the oeuvre is being read, people choose to enter that particular creation and thus they become part of what may be called the church of a particular writer. 5802960429147060224.jpeg___1_500_1_500_cb94de6a_

This is the reason why the fame a writer achieves by his art is by far greater than any other artist or any other public performer, no matter the field he performs in. What is interesting is that this is a very modern situation. Writing was never as popular as today and the novel is a recent development of the modern West. It’s almost like when the old God gave up his territory, new gods, small and many but nevertheless gods, came in to fill the vacant position. A writer receives today the kind of veneration that was in general reserved for the God almighty and he is sometimes looked upon as having the ultimate answers to the ultimate questions. And since the world sees them as gods, the writers themselves soon come act and feel like gods. So it is not surprising that, contrary to what may be the popular opinion, it is not scientists who are less likely to believe there is a real God, but literary elites.

I think I’ve made my point (I’ve tried to make it as short as possible) and that it is now a little bit clearer  why today’s gods are writers. And in writing this it has become a little bit clearer to me why I want to be a writer myself.

Of beautiful women and other demons

There are many things in this world that make it not such a nice place to live in. Among these one may name starving children, natural disasters, incurable diseases, wars, death that is end of us all and so on. One could write a book, and a big one too, consisting just in enumerating all the things that are wrong with this world-picture of ours. It would probably not make a bestseller, since every reader would think that he could write the same book and maybe better and bigger. And he could probably do that, in virtue of the only qualification necessary, that is to be a citizen of this world.

But no one would think of adding beauty in that list of shame, since beauty is considered one of the best things we have, a pretty good consolation for all the bad things that strike us in this ocean we call life and which, for some reason, seems to be really angry with us. For some beauty is such a big thing as to make the purpose of life itself. I think it was Nietzsche who said that existence is only justifiable as an aesthetic phenomenon. Whatever might have been his real intention in saying that, and this is only for a professional philosopher to know, it’s clear for everyone to see that beauty was ranked pretty high in his hierarchy of things.

It’s a shame that so many fail to see what beauty really is or does. In a world in which justice is just a word to be mocked in courthouses, beauty takes injustice to whole new levels. You can always hope that the world would some day be a  better place, that the kids in Africa will someday stop dying of starvation, that the Powerful of the world will finally  decide that heroin is bad no matter how much money it brings you and put an end to the worldwide slaughter it produces. But you can never hope that some day you will  be prettier than you are today, can you? Some women think they can, but they only end up with breast implants, which is the ugliest thing in the world. It’s true, we can already see the dawns of that brave new world  in which man will finally get to play the part he always wanted to play, that is, God. But genetic manipulation is not yet an option as a remedy of ugliness, and with genetic manipulation, which indeed is confident enough to promise to correct the lack of beauty, we have to pay a price that may very well cost us our humanity.

But leaving aside genetic intervention as a way to assure beauty to our offspring, we live in world in which beauty is distributed to human beings through the blind mechanism of the genes. Some are lucky and get out into the world in athletic bodies, with perfect teeth and perfect symmetry of the face and with hair that falls only when you are sixty nine. Of course, beauty is a mystery that resides in something beyond everything that we could ever hope to put into words. Because beauty is not in athletic bodies or in perfect teeth or perfect symmetry of the face or in hair that falls only when you are sixty nine. One can have all these and still be ugly, and I mean physically ugly, if someone was thinking that I had in mind inner beauty. But the rest of the beings that come to populate this world are less lucky. Just as most people in the world are not bright, to use a beautiful word in a negative form for expressing an ugly situation, in the same way most of the people are not beautiful, using the same round-about way for stating the ugly truth. We come in all sizes and shapes  but most of these would in no way make it to a beauty contest. Perhaps entropy has something to do with this. Perhaps there are more ways of being ugly than there are of being beautiful so that the world we see is just a fair display of materialized probabilities. I have no idea, but I do know that one’s sense of justice should be offended by this state of affairs. I know mine is.

But this is not the worst thing. I am just getting to that one. It is not so bad to be ugly, especially when you have a pretty good chance to find somebody as ugly as you are and for whom you will be a good match. Some may call that love and everyone, no matter how ugly, has a shot at this. Part of the problem is that you, as an ugly person, get to be the unwilling witness of a  permanent parade of beautiful persons proudly displaying their bodies. Now, as never before in history, we have TV and magazines to make a religion out of beauty. It is like someone has made it a personal duty out of daily transmitting this message to most of the world population: in your face, losers!

And this is not all. The lowest affair that beauty gets to be involved in, in its blind journey through our world, is when it meets women. Of course, the woman is the very paradigm of beauty. Everything that is beautiful in the Universe could disappear tomorrow, but if there would be one beautiful woman left, we would still know what beauty is. In woman beauty finds its perfect embodiment so as to make a woman’s skin, a woman’s breasts, a woman’s eyes and lips the very materialization of the essence of beauty. There was a Romanian philosopher, Constantin Noica, who said that women cannot practice metaphysics because they are metaphysics. I don’t know if he was right about that one, had he put it differently, saying that women are not beautiful, they are beauty itself, he would have been fully right. But what seems to be the problem, a  beautiful woman might ask, and one that was actually kind enough to read this far too. The problem is that for a woman beauty is like a demon that possess her and takes her to unconceivable heights or lows, transcending with her in its jaws the walls of what we call human condition. This was- I hope- poetical way to put it, but, presuming that poetry was far from any ability I may have, it was at least metaphorical. And I am afraid I cannot go much farther beyond this metaphor. It would take me way too many pages and knowledge I do not quite posses if I am to put in a discursive and non-metaphorical manner what beauty does to a woman.

Even though this is surely to be the case, let me take just one one step beyond the metaphor. Beauty would not be such a bad thing for a woman if she were to live in the wilderness, in perfect solitude. But the evil takes place when you put a beautiful woman with other people that soon enough will come to have nothing else to do but contemplate her. And who could blame them, because there is no greater and more mysterious force in the physical universe than beauty.

So the beauty is not in itself a bad thing, but only when it becomes reflexive, that is when the woman becomes conscious of her beauty as such. Her beauty, which initially is the most beautiful thing in the world, travels into the people around her which in the process are reduced to the simple function of mirrors and back to her amplified a thousand times and thus becoming the ugliest thing in the world. For the woman now knows that her strength is in her beauty and that it is the most powerful weapon in the world and that there is nothing she can do to improve it or herself. Of course, there are very beautiful women  who refuse to be subdued by their own beauty and wish to rise above it. But there are few who make it. For most of the most beautiful women in the world beauty is all that is takes to be human, and going this way soon deprives them of humanity. Actually this way away from humanity goes in two opposite directions. One  downwards, in the object world, as one can see in pornography where a woman is reduced to her body as a mere object. The other one goes up, in a sort of deification, but equally away from the human condition, with the woman becoming a goddess, way above the conventions, limitations and usual ways of doing that rule over ordinary mortals.

Because this is nobody’s fault, since no one can help being beautiful or admiring beauty as a slave, this is just another tragedy that befalls our world, as if there were not enough tragedies already. I realize that all this rage against beauty may be seen as coming out of the writer’s own frustration with his own ugliness. But, in fact, there are two possibilities that perhaps overlap. First is this already mentioned: a frustrated ugly  person who throws venom at beauty hoping to get rid of it. But it may also be the case that the author is one who has suffered the indifference of a very beautiful woman and now seeks revenge.  In regard to the first one, I will admit in all honesty that I have no idea if I am ugly or not. People, in their function of mirrors, send me mixed up messages about this. I can’t make something very clear out of these messages, but I would dare say that I have reason to believe that I am not very ugly. When it comes to the second option, the reader will have to take my word that no extremely beautiful woman has ever broke my heart. I wish I were so lucky! In fact I was never involved in any way with any woman of extreme beauty, but this may actually  be what will make some say “eureka!”. Perhaps they would be right to say so, I can’t have the last word on this one.

What’s the worst one can say about God

The worst thing one can say about God is that He rules the world. This is, I think,  the supreme blasphemy.

To say that God doesn’t exist or that He is not good (the first in all seriousness, the second maybe half serious, half joking), is not by far as outrageous as saying that He rules the world. By ruling I mean absolute control over everything that is happening. To say that God does not exist or that He is not essentially good, is to force reality into saying more than it is able to say. We do not see God, so concluding that He doesn’t exist is in a way based in empirical reality. Of course, it ignores the very real possibility that things we cannot see may actually exist.

We live a world in which the quantity of evil and suffering is about the same as the quantity of good and joy. To conclude that God is not good  (the similarity between God and good is quite striking in English, but of course this is not the case in other languages), assuming that the world is His creation, is as much in tune with empirical reality as it is to say that He does not exist. But it commits just as much the sin of overstatement.

The world may be very well be God’s creation, but have a head of its own, thus providing a gap between the Creator and the creation. If the world is bad, it does not have to necessarily mean its Creator is also bad. Only when affirming that God rules the world is one implying that God is evil. So to say that God rules the world, in the manner implied by His omnipotence, is much worse than saying that God is not good. If saying that God not good is something more than plain contradiction in terms, than it must mean that this bad god is not almighty, because otherwise the world would be entirely bad. A bad god who is also omnipotent would not allow the world to be good, not even for the fun of it. But an all powerful good God would allow the world to be bad. This is because good is good enough to allow its opposite to exist. But evil is not good enough for this.

Thus, saying that God rules this world is  to make Him responsible for every bit of insanity, injustice, evil and suffering that this world is drown into and, even worse, is to deny the most important thing in this universe and every conceivable universe: freedom. This world is a chaotic mixture of good and evil, circling in a chaotic not-so-merry-go-around. And in this chaotic movement fueled by freedom resides its mystery, its beauty and its justification.