Stardust: A Finely Tuned Universe (Polkinghorne)

Hello Stardust,

In this post, I ask you to consider three points: 1) we are made from explosions of stars; 2) the universe may be finely tuned and intricately designed; 3) there is an intelligible structure of the universe, which makes prayer possible.

Here are some passages for you to consider, on these points, from an essay by John Polkinghorne, a physicist and theologian.

And for more, read: his essay, PolkinghorneSoFinelyTuned (originally published, 1996 Commonweal).

1. We are made from explosions of stars.

On Stardust:

“The stars have another tremendously important thing to do. The nuclear furnaces that burn inside the stars are the source of the chemical elements which are the raw materials of life.”

 

“If you’re made from stardust, there’s got to be some dust from stars around for you to be made of. You’ve got to have stellar explosions.”

That means that we share the essential substance with the rest of the galaxy. When I look up at the stars, I know that we are one.

2. Regarding a finely tuned universe, consider how chance interacts with purposeful design. For instance, if you meet your soul mate, is the meeting random or purposeful? Here is another articulation of the matter by Polkinghorne.

 

“John Leslie, a philosopher at Guelf University in Canada, writes about these questions. He has written the best book about the anthropic principle, called Universes. He’s a beguiling philosopher because he does his philosophy by telling stories, which is a very accessible way for those of us who are not professionally trained in philosophy to get the hang of it. He tells the following story. You are about to be executed. Your eyes are bandaged and you are tied to the stake. Twelve highly-trained sharpshooters have their rifles leveled at your heart. They pull the trigger, the shots ring out—you’ve survived! What do you do? Do you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, that’s the way it is. No need to seek an explanation of this. That’s just the way it is.” Leslie rightly says that’s surely not a rational response to what’s going on. He suggests that there are only two rational explanations of that amazing incident. One is that many, many, many executions are taking place today and just by luck you happen to be the one in which they all miss. That’s a rational explanation. The other explanation is, of course, that the sharpshooters are on your side and they missed by choice. In other words there was a purpose at work of which you were unaware.

 

That parable translates well into thinking about a finely tuned and fruitful universe.”

3. Concerning prayer, prayer only makes sense if there’s some correspondence between our own minds or intelligence and the structure of the world. Otherwise, how could our own intentions, which we lift to God/the Spirit in prayer, have an impact on the world?  As Einstein said, “The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

For more on this them, see the Polkinghorne essay.

Eclipses: spiritual significance (links)

1. Atlantic Monthly Article: Eclipses and Religious Significance

This article offers a balanced perspective.

2. Here’s a good survey on the spiritual significance of eclipses in religious history:

Christianity Today on Eclipse

Note: Some predict doom and gloom. The eclipse today, they suppose, is a divine portent for judgment; they cite scriptures from Joshua, Joel, and Revelation.  As this article points out, however, today’s eclipse is a natural occurrence: “The events described in Joshua, Joel, and Revelation are not regular natural occurrences, they are special supernatural events.”

3. Bible Verses on Eclipses

See link above

4. Jewish Prophecies re: Eclipses

See link above — for your interest

The Flat Earth Hypothesis = Life without Rebirth

Gospel of John #27 : John 3:3-8 (passage is reproduced below)

Hello Lightworkers,

Side Question: Why is it that scientific knowledge makes progress while religious knowledge often stays in the dark ages – as if antiquated ideas are holy, never outmoded, and spiritual truths are incapable of being surpassed ? Or: are spiritual ideas actually eternal in a way that scientific ideas can never be? A puzzle.

Today’s puzzle bears on the concept of spiritual rebirth. Is rebirth by the Spirit an ancient and eternal truth or instead something new, which abrogates our customary religious ideas?

Main point: The single-birth hypothesis, I suggest, rivals the flat-earth hypothesis. The single -birth hypothesis posits that we have one lifetime to live, which is counted in years and measured according to space in three-dimensions. Thus, if one is elderly or middle aged, one has lived a long time temporally, having experienced lots of life (as if life were a finite substance), while one’s life is draining away, too, since one is closer to death than before.

Life is measured by time and by corporeal metaphors.

This single-life hypothesis, because it depends on sensory experience, resembles the flat-earth hypothesis.

Evidently, the flat-earth hypothesis – which has no theoretical basis – is making a come-back even while climate change is regarded by some as a hoax. Not everything true can be confirmed by our senses. The earth looks flat. But, the hypothesis of a flat earth is not coherent according to science.

For instance, the round-earth and heliocentric hypotheses, stipulating that the round earth revolves around the sun, allows scientists to explain biological life, and the role of our planet earth in the larger cosmos, while the flat-earth and earth-centric model of the universe lacks such explanatory power.

Take a look at this article. Flat Earth Hypothesis

Jesus confronts the single-life hypothesis in John 3. In order to see the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, you must be born again (also translated as: born from above). Yet, the concept of being born again contradicts our common sense.

In fact, as Nicodemus (Jesus’s dialogue partner) objects, “How can someone enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be reborn?” Nicodemus measures life according to time and space. Jesus replies that many things that are real are in fact invisible in origins and destination. Like the wind, so the Spirit (which gives rebirth) leaves a sensory trace (one can hear the wind blow) yet its causality and direction cannot be perceived by the senses.

If you suppose that life is invisible in its essence, spiritual by its nature, and a continually renewable resource (rather than a limited and finite quantity), then one may be born again (or: born from above). Just as a round-earth and heliocentric model explains the relationship of the earth to the larger cosmos, so the hypothesis of spiritual rebirth explains facts about life in the spirit, including: forgiveness, miracle, and love.

Such spiritual realities are not well accounted for by a single-birth hypothesis. If we love according to the amount of life that a person exhibits, then it would follow from the single-birth hypothesis that there would be less to love as a person’s biological life moved towards its expiration date.

Spiritual life follows principles and laws that confound sensory experience and logic.

John 3:3-8
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Spiritual Self-Assurance

#26 John 2: 22-25

Hello Lightworkers,

In the Gospel of John, Jerusalem is the place of controversy while Galilee is more likely to be populated by Jesus’s disciples and friends. Accordingly in John 2, there is a contrast between Cana — where Jesus trusts his mother to serve him as he does a “sign” by converting water to wine — and Jerusalem, where Jesus finds false-friends.

In Cana, Jesus has performed his first miracle while just afterwards in Jerusalem, Jesus engages in controversy at the Temple. He makes a cryptic prophecy. If the Temple should be destroyed (as it was to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE), then Jesus’s own body will be the new Temple, a prophecy that his disciples unravel in retrospect after Jesus is raised.

The last verses of chapter 2 contain a puzzling comment by the narrator, which serves to distinguish the few (his disciples) who understand Jesus’s prophecy about the Temple and the many who simply put their faith in Jesus’s “signs,” i.e. his miracles. Jesus does not entrust himself to those who favor his “signs.” Jesus requires no testimony from human beings, even while he is able to see into the hearts of all.

Jesus models spiritual self-assurance.

When we are self-confident and grounded in the Spirit, we are protected and self- aware. Because our self-assurance is rooted in a divine source, we are not vulnerable to the fluctuating opinions of others, based on our popularity or impressive deeds. A certain  insight or intuition about humanity is the byproduct, too, of spiritual maturity. We can sense danger and the motives of others.  Yet, because of being divinely protected, we do not hold back from speaking out in favor of justice as the occasion demands.

Question: When are you spiritually self- assured and protected? If you were grounded in the Spirit, how would you live? Which fears would fall away?

Passage: John 2:22-25

22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.