Observation Record Optimized for Human Consumption
While I enjoyed writing my last post, iHuman, many might have found it… umm… inaccessible. As I do carry an intent to share ideas, I feel compelled to compose a companion piece. No matter how I express these ideas, they remain universally irrelevant.
Here I will rephrase my thoughts from iHuman. The subject remains “What I Believe” and with any luck, it will convey that message with the strictly metaphorical soul of my perspective.
I am a human. That is to say my perspective has manifested in the body of a human. My understanding of these and many other terms is evolving along with the rest of the universe. I could say I am an inhabitant of the universe, but I don’t believe that properly expresses it. After all, I don’t believe I’m separate from the universe, and I don’t think it would give the universe justice (if there is such a thing) to describe it as a location. From our perspectives, it could be seen as existence itself and is sometimes defined that way. Another definition refers to it as all of reality. My view doesn’t have a conflict with either of those definitions.
It is more accurate to describe myself as a part of the universe, though my borders are unclear. It’s typical for humans to think themselves well-defined discrete things, but if much scrutiny is placed on the idea, it begins to unravel. As I drank a cup of coffee this morning, I wondered at what point, if any, were the molecules contained in the cup integrated into me? Perhaps this is what someone means when they say, “I’m not me ‘til I’ve had my coffee,” but I have my doubts. I have a lot of those to be certain. Any answer to this seemingly simple challenge appears to be a dead end. If it’s a matter of containment, by what standard are we defining the borders? If I spit my coffee out, does that mean I’ve lost weight? What if we consider what doesn’t come out another end? What about what becomes sweat? Was that water never a part of my body? Am I only non-water molecules, and 2/3 of me is just bloating? To this point, I cannot think of a single precise and coherent definition for a human body, but fortunately nothing requires me to.
I am this perspective.
I am the angle from which my observation occurred. I think this is pretty cool, especially since I first formulated this understanding in the seconds before I put it into words here. That almost embarrasses me, but it feels a bit like a revelation because I’ve always struggled with perspective of consciousness conceptually.
If I am a perspective and a part of the universe, I am a perspective of the universe. How did this perspective manifest? To answer this coherently, it seems necessary to understand how the universe reached its current state. I understand I have a very limited comprehension of how this happened, but thanks to the scientific method, we have a tool to learn what ideas are consistent with the state of the universe through repeated observation and comparison.
When I encounter ideas presented as scientific, I have the ability to scrutinize the conditions of the observations, the motives of the presenters, the methodology of experimentation, the isolation of variables, and the consistency in repetition. It’s certainly a time-saver for me as I don’t have the personal desire to test every proposal. I can accept that water will transition to a solid form at 0⁰C at a given pressure. I accept or reject a proposed idea through a describable process where subjective judgments are made regarding relevance, credibility, and consistency. I consider this different from descriptions of faith that appear to bypass portions of the process in favor of an emotional judgment.
Using the criteria described above, I have come to the conclusion the universe can be described in terms of space-time with the coordinates we perceive as location and time being terms to describe it. We can easily understand three dimensions we describe as height, width, and depth, or graphically through mathematical consideration as x, y, and z, but there is a fourth dimension we struggle to understand as we perceive it as constant and we are traveling along its axis. This is time. It’s typical for humans to consider location in descriptions of three dimensions, but it doesn’t precisely suggest a position in the universe without the specification of time. Once the fourth dimension is specified, we can more accurately describe a condition.
For example, I could show you a pretty good approximation of the status of Earth about a million years after its formation, but if I asked you to point to your location on it, you would have a non-transferable guess because it wouldn’t have much resemblance to what we recognize as Earth. We humans tend to accept three-dimensional representations because from our limited perspectives, few changes to the status of Earth are observed from one condition to the next. In relative terms, the Earth appears as static to us. From our eyes at another point in the universe at our given time, our Earth would appear to be a spinning ball in an orbit around a star in motion through a galaxy that is spinning and moving outward from the center of the universe.
Humans have learned to use the scientific method to demonstrate, citing the light that emanates from the bounds of our observation, that for the last approximately 13.8 billion years, the universe has been in a state of expansion. This follows the assumption: the speed of light is constant, but we’ve not been given a scientific evidence-based reason to believe otherwise. Through direct observation and extrapolation from what is observed, we understand all matter and energy of the universe was once contained in a very small volume. I use the term “very small” because the mathematical model suggests that as time (considered as on an axis) approaches zero, so do the other dimensions we associate with volume. Also, from what we’ve learned, neither matter nor energy can be created nor destroyed. The state of the universe as we can observe it now is fully consistent with this.
We also understand, thanks to the use of the scientific method, the matter we observe has microscopic and even subatomic particles that comprise it and are in arrangements consistent with the properties of even the smallest particles we can observe, even though we do not fully understand them. As scale increases, so does our understanding of how masses and energy interact. While there are still many things we don’t fully understand, like dark matter and dark energy, we are currently observing their effects with useful consistency.
If we have an accurate approximation of the early universe and understand how it came to be in its current condition, then every particle that comprises our bodies and every bit of matter and energy we can observe was present in the early universe. According to modeling, the first protons and neutrons came into existence at around a ten-thousandth of a second after the Big Bang, which I earlier began to describe as the beginning of the universe’s expansion. From that point forward, the particles of the universe appeared to interact with each other in a manner consistent with their currently observable properties.
Some of this is more easily understood, as through classical physics, and some requires a deep dive and a whole lot of math to explain. As someone with a robust understanding compared to the general population, I feel confident in the academically presented, peer-reviewed, and verified conclusions of the brilliant minds working in physics. The people I’ve encountered and know of working in this field have a clear agenda:
They want to understand and share knowledge about how our universe works.
As is true with most things, the better you are at it, the more you get paid (which has an inverse relationship to the number of people who can do it), but money certainly doesn’t make sense as a motivation for that kind of hard work. While there is certainly some fiscal benefit to physics discoveries, it only makes money if it works, so it’s not a motive to deceive. The same thing is true of my fellow chemists, biologists, and other practitioners of so-called hard sciences. When it comes to scientific conclusions, they have the unique quality of being repeatable even if all of what led to them is lost. That’s a big plus for me.
Referring back to my decision flow chart, with science I have criteria to accept things through credible sources, I can verify with reliable objective sources, and I can evaluate whether a process for experimentation seems sufficient. For these reasons, I rely heavily on science to help me decide what I believe. As that’s the subject here, I’ll continue on with that.
With the consistency of particles behaving as they do and interacting with each other in verifiably predictable ways, we can see how things came to be. Thanks to science at large, we can see just how we’re related to all other living things. It’s pretty much written in our DNA. At least heavy clues are there, and verifiable relationships raise the confidence level when observing similarity in relationships consistent with other findings. As we look into our powerful microscopes, separate materials into their basic components with expensive machinery, and even dig in the dirt for more clues, a picture becomes clear and we can now be aware of where we came from and how we got here. It all makes sense to me so I believe it. Our family tree is big and from what we’ve learned, it something like this:
It might be a little weird to think about being related to a mushroom, but we have the evidence not only to suggest it’s true, but at least roughly when our same ancestors existed and how they survived and reproduced. This isn’t a guess or an idea from questionable origins a couple thousand years ago. These are verifiable cutting-edge conclusions on the back of more than a hundred years of well-documented scientific study! Unfortunately for all of us, the first life on earth didn’t have the structure or properties to make fossils. Because of this, we can’t identify exactly when and where chains of nucleic acids formed to create the first versions of what we define as life. We suspect it might have happened on Earth, but we don’t know, and some of the required nucleic acid bases have even been found in meteorites!
Exciting stuff for those of us who don’t have a mandate under duress to reject it.
Regardless of the unknown mechanisms involved, I have been convinced I am the result of natural processes. While that’s an incredibly interesting and exciting conclusion for me, there are many that don’t share this conclusion and even many still who will associate evil and all of society’s ills on the mere acceptance of such a notion. Many ironically choose to attack and share their chagrin through the fruits of some of the more recent scientifically discovered technologies. Perhaps even less palatable than the suggestion we’re cousins of caimans is what wasn’t discovered.
As previously indicated, I believe the human body is a result of natural processes. I, my perspective, is a result of these natural processes. Unless someone can convince me the perspective of humans comes from outside of these natural processes (a very tall order at this point), then I must assume my perspective comes only from my physical form and the influences on it. This is a wordier version of nature and nurture. If my choices depend on these two things, then perspective is a good word for me. I’m an observer. I can have an opinion, but my choices depend on whom I am, so the idea of “free will” ain’t so free and would cost me some cognitive dissonance at least.
With any luck, I’ll have some related T-shirts for sale here soon, but for now, my irrelevant opinion is its own reward. While I also have many other inconsequential thoughts on things, most of them can be derived from the conclusions I’ve reached and the valuations I’ve expressed. This isn’t a list of my thoughts, but what a person might need to know to understand them. From now until when it changes, I now have a convenient reference. I might just print it up, fold it into thirds, and stick it on the table by my front door for those more concerned about my perspective when its no longer in-service. I’ve written this, not because I think what I believe matters, but because it’s not particularly unique or special. There are many humans out there, and if my wishes come true, at least some will be critical thinkers that might appreciate hearing thoughts similar to theirs absent the will to articulate them. If you’re reading this, you have my expressed permission to plagiarize any and all of it, cutting and pasting at will, unless you’re making cash off of it in which case, I want my cut. I also wouldn’t recommend doing it where it might get you in trouble. “I have no free will” has yet to be used as a successful defense.
ego sum sententia mia