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A creed for the 21st century

By Brian Holden - posted Wednesday, 24 April 2013

On a beach just before sunset, lie on your side and facing the water. You will see three horizontal bands: the sky, the sea and the sand. Then in a matter of minutes your awareness can change from being horizontal to being vertical - with you being sucked into the side of the planet which you know to be a ball. As the sun sets, you will feel that the surface you are attached to is rolling away from the sun.

If you have a blanket, then you will be able to remain there long enough to see the ball eventually roll into the sun. And, in the hours between the disappearance and reappearance of the sun, if you are now lying on your back, you will look out to see many stars. Sucked into the side of the ball and staring outwards, you will eventually feel as if suspended in stars.

Assuming that you are in the majority, then you have abandoned the religion of your childhood. That enlightenment has come at a price - as now you are unconsciously dissatisfied at being grounded in nothing larger than yourself. But after your beach experience, you will be in the mood to take your first steps into cosmology - your first steps on a spiritual journey with the potential to compensate for the religion that you have lost.


When I received my first communion I would have described the feeling of God coming into my body as "awesome". Cosmology is spiritual for the same reason. It is awe-inspiring. You can be transcended into a different awareness of space and time. Cosmology expands your perspective so that you become a component of the cosmos. Big terrestrial problems become much smaller after your mind becomes a component of the cosmos

To begin with; you probably know that of all the molecules in your body, 60% are the water molecules H2O (two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen). As a cosmologist in the making, you will learn that every one of those molecules came from comets composed of ice and which smashed into the Earth eons ago. Blood, sweat and tears - once inside a comet.

Look at your hand. Carbon atoms compose 18% of it. You may even be aware of that fact. As a cosmologist in the making, you will learn that those atoms were made inside a star which exploded a few billions of years ago. The 'dust' eventually drifted into this planet's gravitational field to contribute to the making of that hand.

By far the most common atom in your body is hydrogen. Every one of them was made about 13.8 billion years ago. That was a time when only hydrogen existed - and yet here you are reading this. If that was not a miracle, but came about by chance, then somebody likened the odds against that outcome to the odds against a dart launched from Earth and hitting a coin at the edge of our galaxy.

But there are no miracles in cosmology. Instead there are incomprehensibly big numbers.

The history of the path from hydrogen atoms to you can be explained by science as a series of chance events following physical laws which are completely understood. But! What caused all of the parts to be in the right place when the odds against this happening was analogous to a dart hitting a coin at the edge of our galaxy? What do the numbers tell us?


Imagine that you are sitting in front of a poker machine with the chance of a jackpot equivalent to a dart hitting a coin at the edge of our galaxy. That is as close to being impossible as it is possible to get - but, not absolutely impossible once the object has been launched to escape the planet's gravity.

However, what if you had as many coins as it takes and lived for as long as it takes to hit the jackpot? Then, hitting the jackpot becomes a certainty. So, for the near-impossible reality of what you now see around you to become a certainty, there would have to have been a near-infinite number of misses.

We now know that there are countless planets which may have no life more evolved than bacteria. Most have no life at all on them. Also, our universe may have instantly arose (a big bang) out of the collapse of a previous universe (a big crunch) whose big bang itself arose out of a big crunch in a never-ending cycle of big bangs and big crunches.

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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