How was this brought into being?


This is the Hubble Ultra  Deep Field 2014.

The dimmest galaxies are more than 10 billion times fainter than stars visible to the unaided eye and represent the Universe in the extreme past, a few 100 million years after the Big Bang.

When you allow yourself to ponder the prodigious energy, time and distance that this picture displays, several results are possible:

a) a sudden loss of interest in purely local affairs;

b) a turning away in repugnance from the contemplation of the near-infinite and a re-focusing of attention on one’s worldly concerns: shoelaces, grocery lists, elections;

c) a marvelling that anything so vast and powerful could exist at all.

If your reaction is (b) I do not have anything to say to you or you to me. If it is (a) or (c) we might have something to talk about.

And this brings me to the critique of mind and science that has dominated the Western imagination since Descartes. It is called the mechanical philosophy, and its premises are well known to all. You probably share them. David Bentley Hart writes

 …The mechanical philosophy’s great metaphysical master narrative – its governing picture of nature as an aggregate of mechanistic functions and systems, accidentally arranged out of inherently lifeless and purposeless elements – remains the frame in which we now organize our expectations of science and, consequently, of reality.

(The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss p64-65)

It is, moreover, symptomatic of a kind of consensus not just in the sciences but also in the culture at large. In fact the mechanistic view of consciousness remains a scientific and philosophical premise only because it is an established cultural bias, a story we have been telling ourselves for centuries, without any real warrant from either reason or science. The materialist metaphysics that emerged from the mechanistic philosophy has endured and prevailed not because it is necessary to support scientific research, or because the sciences somehow corroborate its tenets, but simply because it determines in advance which problems of interpretation we can all safely void confronting.”

and at page 68

We tend to presume that  if one can discover the temporally prior physical causes of some object – the world, an organism, a behaviour, a religion, a mental event, an experience, or anything else – one has thereby eliminated all other possible causal explanations of the object. But this is a principle that is true only if materialism is true, and materialism is true only if this principle is true, and logical circles should not set the rules for our thinking.

That we can usefully describe things in physical terms does not thereby exclude descriptions not based in physical terms. The sciences “do not provide proofs of where reality begins or ends, or of what the dimensions of truth are”.