Sunday, August 23, 2009

On Time, Space and Being, part two

The last blog post was about how we misinterpret time, it's flow and our existence through that flow. Having established that we do not exist within the confines of time as we think we do, and therefore our ideas about god and the religions that surround him/her/etc... must be mere constructions, we can now turn to the second part of the discussion, matter.
Matter exists. Unlike time, it is a physicality. We are made of matter, the earth, the stars, every molecule and quark is a form of matter. Matter is the stuff, when we talk of stuff. It is easy for us to live our lives knowing this never really giving the issue much thought, but as we do with time and it's flow, when we glance over the underlying structure of matter, we allow ourselves to construct strange pseudo-realities that, while based on the taken-for-granted underlayment of material structure, are nonetheless leaps and bounds outside of sensibilty. I am of course talking about the ideas that we are immortal, that our physical bodies can be ressurected, and go to live, after we die mind you, in a place called heaven, or hell, depending. So let's look a bit closer at that which you and I take for granted in our everyday lives, our bodies.

We can start with our bodies in general. On the surface, they seem to be a marvel of intelligent design. We have all that we need. Fingers for grasping, hands for support and extending the fingers, arms for balance and extention. Toes for precision balance, feet for gross balance, legs for upright stance. A skeleton for internal organ protection and motor movement. Organs for their various functions. You get the point. Our bodies are in an assemblage which allows us the maximum environmental involvement at the macro-level, by having the various organs work in consort with each other. However, our organs and body parts are themselves made of smaller things, without which none would be able to operate, much less provide the services they do. Let's descend to the cellular level. Each of our body parts is composed of a multitude of cells. Each of these cells is tiny, microscopic, invisible to the unaided eye, but there nonetheless. Together, they work in tandem to perform particular functions such as digestion (within the stomach and intestinal lengths), oxygenation (within the circulatory and respiratory systems, via lung cells absorbing oxygen and then transferring it to the red blood cells which co-mingle in the capillaries inside the lungs) and immunization (within the lymph nodes, and white blood cells which help to disengage foreign pathogens and infectants). Each performs it's duty if you will, albeit unbeknownst to itself. A cell has no brain, no thoughts, no ideas. It performs a function that is integral to body as a whole, but that on it's own would be a useless gesture. Our bodies would not live without cells, but the same can not be said for cells. There are many examples of single-celled organisms (yes that is a direct quote from 7th grade biology class, thank you Ms. Pedersen :-)) Cells don't require a larger host organism to operate, but those particular cells in our bodies do a much larger work when combined together. This does not mean the cells in our bodies are more complex necessarily than those single-celled organisms, just more finely-tuned to do particular things. Our bodies are similar to an ant colony in this sense. A colony delegates tasks to individual sections, which when combined together will benefit the whole colony. Of course, cells themselves are comprised of smaller entities, namely molecules.
Since our cells do not have individual brains, then it stands to reason that individual molecules also lack them (especially considering a brain is an organ comprised of cells, which are in turn composed of molecules). Molecules make up everything larger than themselves. Up until now, we have been reducing gross matter to ever smaller constituents. At the molecular level we begin to see matter for what it really is. Molecules are the last step we take before we encounter that which comprises all in the universe we know of. Molecules make up cells (again, thanks to 7th grade biology) but they also make up everything else; water, rocks, air, fire. Although we are bodies, we are more primitively organs, and before that we are cells, and before that we are molecules. So in this sense we are no more than that which surrounds us, living or not (we will come back to what we are).
I'd like to return for a moment to the level of our bodies and discuss solidity. Feel your arm. Go ahead, feel it, touch it. Does your hand go through your arm? No of course not. Why not? Because your arm is covered in skin, filled with bone and muscle. It is solid. So is the chair you are sitting in while reading this, right? Well, I can't push right through my arm with my finger, so there is a bit of solidity involved here, but what about the cellular level. Cellular walls are readily punctured, this is how infection occurs. And since we are made of cells, aren't we not as solid as we think we are? How about the molecular level? Well, molecules are comprised of atoms, which are the singular manifestations of the elements which make up all of the matter in the universe. These atoms are in constant flux, meaning they bombard each other constantly, knocking some molecules awry and replacing the displaced atoms with themselves, thus changing the molecule itself. Molecules are atoms attached to each other via electron-compatability. This means that two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom will attach together because the number of electrons balances and leaves a stable molecular configuration. There is a lot of space in between the specific atoms of a molecule. Molecules are mostly made of empty space; electrons orbiting the nucleus, which is made of protons and neutrons. The molecules which make up the chair you are sitting in disallow you from falling through them by repelling you (specifically the molecules of the cells in the skin which covers your butt). The solidity you feel is simply the electro-magnetic repulsion from billions of molecules pushing against each other.
Just as review, because we descended pretty quickly there: Molecules are made of atoms, atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. Each descent takes us an order of magnitude smaller. While there is very little solid space inside a molecule, there is even less solidity inside an atom. Almost 99% of an atom is empty space. And whatever taken-up space there is so little as to be almost non-existant. And it doesn't stop there. Protons and neutrons are themselves composed of smaller particles (elementary particles) called quarks. Electrons are themselves elementary particles and are thus not composed of quarks. The space between quarks is even more ridiculously wide-spread. The only thing holding protons together are gluons (these are force-carrying particles, which transmit the strong nuclear force, which is what holds the protons and neutrons together). We are made of organs and there is space between these organs. Our organs are made of cells and there is even more space between these cells. Our cells are made of molecules, of which the space between widens fantastically. Our molecules are made of atoms which are held together by the stability created between the balanced number of electrons (nothing else), and the space between the atoms in a molecule is also immense. Our atoms are composed of protons, neutrons and electrons, where 99% of the space is empty. Our protons and neutrons are made of quarks, which are also almost completely empty.
On the sub-atomic level, we are comprised more than 99% of empty space! I'll say that again. On the sub-atomic level, on top of which all other components of ourselves are built, we are mostly empty space. This is as reductionist as you can get. reduce everything down to the most basic level and there is really nothing there, well almost.
As in the earlier post about time, this true nature of matter and how we are composed, makes it easy to see that all of humanity's endeavors are constructed as a house of cards. From politics, to religion, everything we think, we think from an assumptive standpoint. Since this particular blog is meant to derail religion, let's stay there. Religion says we are more than are parts. There is something that is non-physical about us. Religion would say of my deconstruction above that it is valid but irrelevant, because that which makes us is not part of the physical world, but rather the supernatural one. This is a stance that can be easily taken when one looks no further than the conglomeration which is our natural physical body. Like a person who listens to a piece of music and finds more than just the note patterns, the religious person looks at his/her body and finds more to it than what is there.
This can be done because the religious person assumes that the consort that the body works inside of is something that is greater than what the individual parts would be capable of. The complexity we see at our level is assumed to be an impossibilty for smaller much simpler component parts. This is the moment of truth, for it is here that the assumption leads some astray. The assumption is this: Complexity cannot arise out of simplicity. This is wrong. Complexity is the result of the layering and interweaving of simplicity. It can and only does arise from simplicity. Elementary particles are just that, the most fundamental constituent odf the known universe. when combined, they create a slightly more complex entity, the atom. There is no intelligence governing this intermingling, it is simply random in nature. But remember it is the intermingling that is random, not the coagulation. When combinations are made, it is because the combination is more stable than either previous singularity (not in the sense of the big-bang singularity). So the combination is purposeful, the purpose being a more stable configuration.
when simple atoms combine to form slightly more complex molecules, the process of intermingling is random but again the connection eventually made is not, nor is it intelligent. There is no decision made, nor recognition made that stability has been achieved. It is only that there are stable configurations and there are unstable configurations, those which are unstable break apart for obvious reasons and those which are stable stay together for obvious reasons.
When atoms combine to form molecules, they combine in a multitude of ways, one of which is DNA. The DNA molecule is a stable molecule, one which is also self-replicating. It is only a molecule, but by copying itself, it quickly gives rise to larger, more complex colonies which we call cells, which then give rise to our organs, also many times more complex, and so on. The complexity which we see sits atop the simplicity we can't. This blindness, which existed for millenia before the advent of molecular discovery and study, is what allowed religions to so fervently take hold of the human mind. Religion only exists as a remnant of the ignorance humankind lived with for so long. It serves no purpose beyond artificial comfort and dread. It lies as a testament to the need for further inquiry into the foundations of our world, because without this inquiry, assumptive practices can and most likely will destroy us. Next up, Location.

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