In 1977 NASA and mankind sent two emissaries into the great expanse of the universe. As they travel do they get closer to God?
As each of them sat on the launch pad they were protected inside the fairings of the rockets that were to help them break the bond of Earth’s gravity. Throughout their construction they were touched only by the gloved hands of the engineers and technicians who built them. Held in reverence, looked at in awe, and treated as icons, these two satellites enjoyed the devotion priests give to their holy artifacts. In a manner of speaking, even though they may not have recognized it, these feats of technology were to engineers and even much of the public, a way of getting closer to the truth of creation, the universe, ourselves and ultimately god.
As the spacecraft sat atop the launch vehicles the quiet, conditioned launch fairing protecting the satellite from all outside evils. Temperature, humidity and even oxygen kept away from these monuments to mans questioning spirit. When the rocket left the launch pad it was to be the last time we would ever see the Voyager spacecraft again. The launch fairing separating, booster rockets igniting sending them on their long, infinite journey. Reaching incredible speeds but yet silent, smooth and precise in it’s travel through the vacuum of space. Voyager’s home world shrinking into a smaller and smaller blue dot. Eventually even the sun from which they were born dimming until finally, the influence and warmth of their birth star had no more effect on them than the rest of the stars in the universe. Today, one of our emissaries into intergalactic space Voyager 1, may have finally reached the Helosphere, and left the bounds of our solar system. As it travels on does it get closer to God? Will we see evidence of God as it travels onward?
Many look for signs of God as we travel further and further from our home planet. Recently there was an urban myth about tablets engraved with a message from God on Mars found by the Curiosity Rover. Believers relied on their faith and took this myth as truth. Of course it is these kinds of stories that undermine truth and obscure our vision, actually pushing some further from God. Voyager is indeed helping us understand the universe and learn about our origins. As we do so we are in effect becoming closer to God. Einstein himself marveled at our universe and indeed even at a superior being that could have created it.
“Scientific research can reduce superstition by encouraging people to think and view things in terms of cause and effect. Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order… This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”
Then internet is shrinking the world, even this article will be read by people with many beliefs, many Gods, and also by those who believe in no God at all. One cannot help but look at awe in the images from Hubble, the beauty of the universe and it;s complexity. If you do not believe in a God the mechanics of creation become more and more difficult to attribute to chance and physics. The more we learn the more we cannot help but think there is something else at work assisting, directing and even watching.
Will we see God as Voyager goes further and further into intergalactic space? We may learn more about creation, which in effect brings us closer, but there will be no monolith with a message waiting in space for us. God was just as present when Voyager sat on the launch pad as he is now with it leaving our solar system. Voyager is not “closer to god”, it is just further from mankind. We will learn from the data Voyager sends back, as we do we will awe at the new wonders we have found. We will also face new questions, and seek new answers. All the while gaining an appreciation for the wonder of the universe and it’s workings. Perhaps in this way indeed Voyager, and the other missions that help us understand, do indeed bring us one step closer to the truth of creation, to God.
How poetic…and how unscientific of you. We have “incredible speeds but yet silent, smooth and precise in it’s travel” as the anthropomorphizing of a machine, and a fairly primitive one at that. This quantum universe has sufficient unknowable mystery for any who are actually willing to try to understand the science. The uncertainty principle guarantees that. Unless a social structure has somehow popped into existence without primitive antecedents, it is more than highly probable that every such society that we find will have the equivalent of the religions found on Earth, born of the time in their history when they had insufficient knowledge and maybe even capability to understand the seeming capriciousness of their environment. Only in our last hundred years have we as a species begun to have the knowledge and technologies and medicines to even partially control our existence. Largely we were left to appeal to some greater power that we assumed or hoped existed to help or guide us. None has ever provably existed. What has sprung up is an almost infinite set of people claiming to either be that power or have an inside path to reaching that power. Some of those people have been quite sincere and deserving of respect if not necessarily belief, but so many more have seen “spirituality” as a path to power and control over others. Most societies from the family group up to the tribe up to the most modern societies have grown from the need most people feel for guidance and help either from the leader or the spirit or spirits that leader claims to represent. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with all of that, but even at its most effective level, there is no necessity that any of the claims be true. Indeed, the more specific the claim, the more likely it is to be found to be false.
And here we are, in the middle of a web site largely devoted to the most modern technologies, mouthing the platitudes of old and unprovable belief. Einstein bemoaned the loss of a deterministic universe even as he provided many of the tools that disproved it. Such is the path of science.
Yea I had a weak, unscientific moment :). I actually have toyed with the idea of a post which talks about the world from the perspective of the satellite. From it’s birth, to end of mission. Maybe some day I will write it. Anyway, I wrote the post due to some emails and some comments about Voyager and I thought it was interesting people thought we would see God from a probe exiting the solar system when in fact if you believe in god he is already all around us. In any case each to his own and there is no right or wrong answer, but I do think part of our quest for knowledge is in part to understand the larger questions, not just the scientific ones. I can’t wait for the day we discover life outside our Earth, I hope I am around to see it.
Just which questions do you believe are not scientific ones and which are large and which are small. When we leave the arena of science, we enter the arena of unbridled speculation guided by unprovable belief. Doing science does not admit the answer that a god or gods did it. If a god or gods did it, there is no possibility that we can reason or research our way to an answer. If a god or gods are limited by physical law, then it or they are not what they claim to be. All are welcome to whatever belief system that strikes them, but they are not entitled to call it science. As you have noted, if we have to go any particular place to discover deity, then we are saying that deity is not omnipresent and certainly not all powerful or omniscient. It seems most unreasonable to compartment a life into those areas where deity is dominant and those areas where physical laws of nature are dominant, creating a schizophrenia that damages both compartments irreparably.
As I am sure you realize by now, I share your wish to find that alien life, but I am not very sanguine of the likelihood. It is clear to me that life of some variety is probably ubiquitous, but intelligent life much less so…having stared at Drake’s little equation for many, many years. From what we know of cosmological chemistry, most planets in what is described as a “Goldilocks zone” will have some form of life within a couple of billion years. We also know from our own solar system and our knowledge of the vast energies loosed across space from time to time that any such life and certainly any such intelligent life will have a limited span of existence and an even more limited time in which it will have the knowledge and resources to communicate and/or move. Assuming that the speed of light is really the immovable barrier that it currently appears to be, it seems unlikely that communicators on systems holding that intelligent life will be within reasonable communication range in the combined functional ranges of both. Certainly that would be true of possible movement between such systems. Moving at any sufficient fraction of C to travel between such systems violates common logic. At such speeds, even molecular debris in space will be enormously damaging, and anything much large than a sand grain will be disastrous. Slower speeds will mean generation ships completely dependent on themselves across such vast reaches. We might go, but it is unlikely that any will ever come back and over greater distances, even communicate, and there are distinct limits to the number of such expeditions that could, with the best of will, even be attempted. The human species has shown little taste for multi-generational anything.
At least moving a viable population off this planet seems the only way for long term species survival, but much beyond that seems highly unlikely. Praying to a god or gods seems unlikely to preserve us long from even ourselves, much less from the multitudinous possible natural disasters that we know have happened in the past at regular, but geological intervals. If we must pray, then we must also act with or without the answers to our prayers.
Well….lots to talk about there..With respect to Drakes equation and the Goldilocks zone I agree with most of what you said but in addition to being in the zone you also need a magnetic field to protect the planet from radiation, of course a good amount of water, some would also say a moon to give you a stable rotation, and of course the correct atmosphere. I was actually thinking of writing a post on what else it takes to make a cozy planet besides the correct temperature and orbit. Even with all of that there are still probably plenty of planets with life, we just have to find them. Then of those that have technology are far fewer, and of those the ones that have this at the same time as us (now) so that we can communicate make the number far far smaller. I would like to at least see proof of life at some point. This is much more likely. Of course a signal from them would be even better! Still I try to be positive and get hope from the number if possible planets were finding and the fact that when JWST launches were going to do some re-writing of the history books.
As for moving the population as long as something does not smash into us we will be ok, but of course that could happen at any moment and were about due for a major strike. Then there is the super volcanos to worry about too…oh well…maybe if something like that happens the Aliens will come to save us :^).