Science: Looking Ahead . . .

By I. M. Oderberg

Two concepts may well be the main foci of scientific research in the coming century: 1) the role of symbiosis in the emergence of the living universe out of its inchoate beginning; and 2) the part played by consciousness in the development of our cosmos.

In his latest book (The Dark Side of the Universe: A Scientist Explores the Mystery of the Cosmos, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1988; 197 pages, $17.95.) Dr. James Trefil, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics, George Mason University, discusses new theories of cosmic origin and processes. Claiming that "we have reached the point where the creation, evolution, and present structure of the universe appear as a single, seamless problem" (p. 184), he poses the age-old question: "How did the universe come to be the way it is?" He offers a number of scenarios, beginning with the Babylonians, Egyptians, Claudius Ptolemy (the astronomer, no relation to the Ptolemy family of Greek Pharaohs), proceeding through the centuries until today. He summarizes the latest theories involving superstrings and supersymmetry, offshoots of the search for a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) which will describe the four known forces of gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force, and the strong force as expressions of one fundamental energy.

Einstein at his death was still working to tie together these four energies. In her masterwork, The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky states that all forces are the operation of one cosmos-spanning energy she calls Fohat, a Tibetan word meaning intelligence-energy. These four, and others as well, could be designated as the "sons" of Fohat, the implication being that the one force manifests in different ways according to local conditions and requirements.

Professor Trefil focuses on the hypothetical "dark matter" necessary gravitationally to retard and eventually reverse the expansion of our universe that followed the Big Bang. If sufficient "dark matter" exists, the expansion will reach its energic limit and the universe will begin to contract, culminating in a Big Crunch. All of this involves a vast period of time.

Space precludes our entering upon the intricacies of the new theories, but they add up to a continual probing of how complex material organisms develop out of simpler ones, by means of natural laws whose origin is not really defined. They also stop short of explaining one of the marvels of evolution: the capacities of the human mind! Trefil concludes his exploration of the cosmic mystery by asking another thoughtful question: "If, billions of years in the future, there is to be no life, no intelligence, no memory of the struggles of humanity, what point is there to existence?"

As a scientist and a human being, I have had to wrestle with this question. . . . After a long period of indecision, I finally realized that the entire issue can be brought down to a simple problem -- how will I act tomorrow? Given what I know about the future of the universe, how will I handle the everyday decisions that make up my life? What I finally came to see was this: It may be true that in a quadrillion years the universe will be a cold, expanding sea of radiation. There may be no one to know how I behave tomorrow, no one to remember what any of us did. But this is irrelevant. The point is that I will know tomorrow what I have done, I will know whether I was the best person I could be.
And in the end, my friends, that is all that matters. -- p. 192

If there is more to life than material existence, then there is much more to a human being than his physical body, superb "machine" as it may be in its orderly processes -- and, indeed, vastly more to the physical universe than we perceive. For example, one of the three propositions of HPB's The Secret Doctrine (I:14-18) suggests that the Kosmos is infinite in all possible ways and contains an uncountable number of cosmoi or universes, each pursuing a spiraling growth pattern of birth, maturity, death, and rebirth.

When we consider the earth as one large organism, a biosphere or globe of life and therefore an ecosystem of living beings, class linked to class, then surely the currents of human living will be expressed as a harmonizing of relationships, a recognition that we all belong to a great family.

(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1989; copyright © 1989 Theosophical University Press)

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