When we live in the world trying to understand its origins and its development, there are questions that arise for believers, questions that arise for skeptics. It is useful to summarize at the very beginning, that basic parameters, the questions, that shape much of the discussion.
The first I think in the fundamental, literally the bottom line is why is there existence at all? Why is there a universe at all? We get so involved in whether there is evolution, or whether as in evolution is the universe billions of years, or millions of years, or thousands of years old. All these questions are totally secondary to the most fundamental conundrum of all, that of existence. The universe exists. It did not have to exist or did it have to exist, that is the question. Does it exist forever, or was there a beginning to the physical universe that is predated either by other universes or by something we might call God or the laws of nature. We bypass this, I think, Marshall McLuhan in his book "The Medium is the Massage" states it perfectly. We are not sure who discovered water, but we are pretty sure it was not the fish. When you live in an environment that is totally around you, existence, and also cognition, awareness, self awareness, you just take it for granted. We take for granted the reality of our existing, and we take for granted the reality of our being aware of ourselves. Two phenomena that may not be easily couched within the, or answered by the physical dimensions of the universe.
Another question would be, was the creation of the universe a willful act, or was it a result of some random quantum fluctuation, that the laws of nature might have preceded the universe? Sikh theology in general holds that a non physical thing called God produced the universe. That would be a willful act. The parallel would be some non thing, the laws of nature as it were, totally abstract laws of nature, no physicality, might also be timeless. Sikhi says, God is timeless, physics can say the laws of nature are timeless, laws of nature without nature. The aspect of the laws of nature is couched within quantum mechanics, the physics of the quanta allow something to be created from nothing provided you have a potential on which you can draw. Not a potential of anything physical whatsoever just a potential of having the laws exist.
So, was the creation of the universe, the big bang creation, willfully directed? or was it a random fluctuation in a timeless entity we could call simply the laws of nature? Then another reality emerges from this that the universe is tuned for life. The aspects of the universe are extraordinary, the quality of the fundamental forces of the universe essentially shape the development of life and in fact the universe is tuned for life, not tuned for the starting of life, that is not at all clear, we do not have any idea at the moment how life starts, speculations yes, but how inert matter became alive, that is a complete unknown at the moment. However, once life gets started we see clearly from the fundamental constance of the universe that in fact the universe is tuned for life. How it emerged from life is a question that is a totally separate category of requiring an answer.
Then the amazing reality is that life invented or conceived of reproduction. Why would any form of life think that it had to reproduce, it is alive, we know we are going to die. So you have progeny or you think about the world to come, or another life after, that death might be just the end of the physical life and death might not be the end of life, it might be just a chapter, a change in the chapter from a material life, to a totally metaphysical or spiritual form of existence. Nonetheless, we realize our death, but did the first bacterium realize it was going to die, and therefore that bacterium somehow developed the potential to reproduce. Reproduction is purpose driven, it is not that it seems purpose driven, it is purpose driven. Reproduction at the minimum is the purpose of extending the life which is going to physically degenerate in the organism which is hosting this ability to reproduce.
So why did early life have, the first life, the first life which we know, because any life that did not have reproduction is gone from the fossil record, we do not know about it. So we just say the first life of which we know had already within it the purpose driven reality, the purpose driven phenomenon that it wanted to extend itself by reproduction. A major problem in this whole idea of evolution is the fact that life starts immediately on the earth. There is some basic problems, some basic problems in the idea of a, let us say a neo-Darwinian, or Darwinian concept of how life develops. One of them is life begins immediately on earth, earth is molten, earth cools, a crust forms on the earth, liquid water and water vapor are now in abundance, plus several simple molecules, carbon monoxide, methane, ammonia, inanimate rocks, water, life starts. Not after billions of years, using American terminology, not after thousands of millions of years, but its geologically speaking, immediately. Ever since the slack there of several millions of years, but the oldest rocks that can bear fossils already have fossils of fully formed single celled life. Nature invents photosynthesis in a snap, and starts oxygenating the atmosphere.
The rapidity is what is the surprise. Then, a basic problem is, if it is the laws of nature and not God that produces the universe, then we have a problem because many of the theories which would allow quantum tunneling, or quantum fluctuation in a totally abstract not peculiar potential field, to compress itself and become a universe. Many aspects of that theory, although possibly not all, but many aspects of that theory, require the universe that is created to be a closed universe. That is, space will be curved to close back on itself. Not like a balloon physically, but that space itself curves back in on itself. That means a super heavy universe. All of the data imply at the moment that the universe is not super heavy, in fact it lacks in the physical region, at least a fact by a factor of 10, the amount of mass required to produce this universe. So that makes a problem if it is indeed the laws of nature, it may require some other understanding then quantum tunneling.
Questions that a believer might have to confront would be, why is there evil in the world. I mean if God is supposed to be wanting to create the universe willfully, I would rather think that God was not some kind of sinister being that, ha ha, you know, create the universe so there would be things like cancer, and people drunk, born crippled, and crushed by earthquakes, innocent persons. So why does this exist. In Sikhi there is an answer for this, but a simple question is why is there tragedy, put it this way, why is there tragedy in the world, in a world created by a God from a Sikh point of view that claims to be merciful. Why would one brother murder another.
If God does, in fact, run the world, why were there dinosaurs? The fossil record from before 65 million years ago going back to about 225 million years ago is replete with dinosaur fossils.
Why would God have dinosaurs to develop approximately 250 million years ago, exist for 185 million years till about 65 million years ago, and then be wiped out by what appears to be a massive meteor crashing into the earth? and if it was a force from outer space, literally, a meteor, then that meteor, was sent by God to destroy the dinosaurs and therefore allow mammals to continue to exist. Mammals are now said to have co-existed with dinosaurs during that entire 185 million year span, which is a finding only about 15 years old now. Mammals appear in the fossil record about the same time that dinosaurs do. But mammals did not get any larger than a few kilos. Dinosaurs were all over the place, swimming dinosaurs, crawling, gigantic massive dinosaurs running the ecology almost. And then suddenly, they are wiped out and the mammals survive. If in fact that wipe out of the dinosaurs was a divine effect, it certainly was good for us because we are the mammals that resulted. Well why have the dinosaurs in the first place? let us just move the whole development of mammals back to 185 million years, you know we could have solved a lot of problems by now. But the question that remains is why if God is running the world, have dinosaurs in the first place if they were only going to be destroyed?
Then the question would be, did creation of the universe produce a universe where life was merely possible, or did it produce a universe where life was inevitable? We see life appear, but was that inevitable? or merely, merely a possibility? A major problem - is there any objective evidence for God's self revelation, is there any evidence that is purely objective that a skeptic could take and see that in fact there was a revelation by God, those data are hard to come by. The final question that a skeptic might present from a Sikh point of view is the archaeological record is astonishingly deplete with evidences of this self revelation.
So now just to jump quickly to a few of those, to expand on a few of those questions about why is there existence. That is a question we can answer easily. The fact is, that we live in existence as the fish live in the water, and if there were no existence, obviously we would not be asking the questions. However, the universe that is created is very finely tuned, so what are the implications? Scientific American thinks the fact that the universe is so finely tuned it is simply because there are many universes, that there are parallel universes that really exist. They say that most universes may not have life but our universe is just right for life, and therefore, we have life in one of the universes of the many that exist. The logic is quite extraordinary. The evidence for other universes: cosmologists infer the presence of parallel universes by scrutinizing the properties of our universe. These properties including things like gravity, the strength in the forces of nature, the number of observable dimensions of space, (length, width, height and the dimension of time,) those 4 dimensions, that these properties were established by random processes. That these properties were established by random processes during the birth of the universe. Yet, they have exactly the values that sustain life. So Scientific American realizes that the world establishes that the properties of nature have exactly the values that sustain life. What is the deduction from this? from a materialist point of view, this suggests since these values are exactly right to sustain life, that there must be other universes that have other values and do not sustain life. Hence, the cover can say parallel universes really exist. Well, that level of logic, since our universe is good, there must be bad universes, is about as convoluted as one can imagine in the development of a logic of why there is a universe.
Now on the subject of creation, lets clarify, the big bang itself did not produce one iota of solid matter. It did not produce protons and neutrons and electrons, it produced light beams, super energetic light beams, electromagnetic radiation. Now these light beams eventually became alive. Now it is quite a stretch of the imagination that light beams can become alive by themselves, but all of physics holds by that. Interestingly there are ancient commentaries that hold by it also, but just stay with the physics of today. The big bang produces light beams, somehow by the discovery of Albert Einstein, the famous equation E=MC2, the light beams become solid particles of quarks, they become protons, neutrons, we have electrons, we now have the building blocks of atoms. A proton actually is the nucleus of a hydrogen. These protons, neutrons, electrons rapidly draw together, we get hydrogen and helium, there are some nuances in the process which lock the universe in after the first 3 or 4 minutes to be primarily almost entirely in fact hydrogen and helium. Hydrogen is great for making stars, but it is not good for making people. It just does not carry it off. You need things like carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, iron, potassium, calcium, the heavier elements.
So what happens, in the alchemy of stars as the gravity pulls together, pulls together this hydrogen, and helium squeezes it tighter, tighter, and the hydrogen is used up and the star implodes and explodes in these processes within the furnace of its stars, the hydrogen, the helium, almost like nuclear lego blocks are built into heavier, heavier elements, hydrogen, helium, lithium, barium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, up the periodic table, and the elements of life now are in the universe, made from the hydrogen of the creation which was made from the energy, the light beams of creation. So now we have light beams manifesting themselves as the heavier elements.
These elements over eons and many processes in stars finally get drawn together in this corner of the universe. Some form in the center, rocky planets, mercury, venus and earth, just at the right distance from the sun to have a temperature commensurate with liquid water. Not so hot that the water evaporates, not so cold that the water is locked in ice. Just far away enough from the sun so the gravitational force of the sun and the earth does not lock the earth so the same face always faces the sun, which can be devastating. We only see one face of the moon from the earth because it is locked gravitationally by tidal forces, so that as it goes around the earth, the same face always forms it. Mercury has the same face facing the sun primarily, almost only, Venus also, they are both too close. The earth just happens to squeeze just far out into a habitable zone where it can rotate on its axis. Thus distributing the intense energy of the sun over the entire surface, it has just the right tilt, an excellent tilt of the axis, so that heat is distributed winter, spring, summer, and fall over both hemispheres. It has one of the largest moons in the solar system which helps maintain the stability of this 23 degree angle tilt that gives us so beautifully this distribution of heat. And on this earth which is so lovingly tuned for life as Scientific American points out, rocks and water, a few simple molecules, perhaps some clay, methane, ammonia, nitrogen, water and rocks become alive. Of course those rocks and water were not always rocks and water. Before that, before the earth and the solar system formed, they were stardust, of previously exploded stars. And before this, they were hydrogen and helium which is produced in the big bang, and before this they were beams of energy. So everything you see around you is condensed energy. You are made of light beams.
The fact that there is one physical creation and science is unequivocal about this, there was one physical creation, the stuff that makes up your body, and the world around you, the chair you are sitting on, the floor on which the chair rests, has been in the universe since the creation. You witnessed the creation of the universe. You were present at the creation. Not in your bodily form, but in the form of light beams, that eventually became alive, learned to send people to the moon, learned to create a violin concerto that can so beautiful, can move a person to tears, all from condensed light beams. It is quite a stretch of the imagination, that this merely happened by itself. But that is the understanding from a materialist reductionist point of view. Light beams became alive and somehow, not only did they become alive, but they became cognizant of being alive. Cognizant of awareness, of joy, light beams can laugh and feel joy. Light beams can sing, light beams can love. But that is what happened, because the only thing that is a substrate of this universe is light beams. And that is what we are made of.
So the light beams became alive, I guess it could happen by chance, certainly the average person might think so. Here we can picture a group of monkeys hammering away on typewriters. Most of what they write will be garbage, but very occasionally would you expect a monkey to type a Shakespeare sonnet? The famous adage, put enough monkeys away that are hammering away on typewriters, most of what they write will be garbage, but very occasionally, by pure chance they will type out one of Shakespeare's sonnets. It takes the back of an envelope to do the calculation that that will never happen, not withstanding that the largest, the most widely sold science book every written, "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking, tells us along the way, that the whole universe can be done exactly like that. Like monkeys hammering away on typewriters, we can by chance, produce the universe. Did you know it would take billions upon billions upon billions, about 10 to the six hundredth in fact, parallel universes to produce ours. In other words, the likelihood of getting such a universe by chance is zero, it will never happen by chance.
So we have the origin of life and maybe it is by chance, that is what we are told, but it does not seem to work that way, because even if you think it is by chance, how do light beams figure out how to send people to the moon. But they did. That life begins about 3.8 billion years ago. Life develops, not so rapidly in fact. It starts immediately, but remains single celled for 3 billion years. For 3 billion years, life remains means single celled, and then out of the blue, what comes what is called the Cambrian explosion, this is Time Magazine, Scientific American talks about it also, in the terminology, the big bang of animal evolution. The big bang of animal evolution is quite amazing. Every, it is described quite succinctly in Scientific American, that every phylum that exists today came into being simultaneously.
There are approximately 34 animal phyla; all of those 34 appear in the fossil record, in the strata called the Cambrian explosion. Of which Darwin knew about, it was not dated, he just assumed that the strata in which every body type, in which every body type that exists today, is simply chordata, that is our first formation in our phylum, it is primitive fish. These are the first insects, the trilobites, and there are mollusks, and all, all together, all the 34 appear out of the blue. 3.8 billion years ago, 3.6, 3.7 approximately, 3.8 billion years ago, water forms, life begins. For 3 billion years, life remains one cell, then out of the blue, the Cambrian explosion produces this menagerie of life, these are drawings of the American Museum of Natural History, they showed in Time magazine. In that life, already our eyes, every phylum that has eyes today appeared in the fossil record for the first time with eyes. Now that is quite amazing. So Darwin assumed that other fossils would be found that would show a difference. What other fossils have been found, it becomes worse and worse constrained for these explosions of life, these punctuated of life. And hence, the Journal of Science which is the leading overall peer review science journal in the United States, had an article in 1995 by Robert Kerr that asked whether Darwin got it all right? Did Darwin get it all right? the subtitle was no, Darwin did not get it all right. That species appear in the fossil record with an amazingly un-Darwinian abruptness. What does it mean?
It means we still do not understand what is going on and it is interesting to see how one of the leaders, one of the leaders in this understanding that life became by random reactions, how this person had the fortitude mentally to change his opinion. It is George Wald, Nobel Prize winner, professor of biology, Harvard University, who wrote an extraordinary interesting article called "The Origin of Life."
The Origin of Life, 1954, was based on a thesis that life could start by random reactions. Scientific American, "The Origin of Life," George Wald. Wald becomes a Nobel Prize winner for discovering the role of Vitamin A, in visual, the functioning of the retina. Here is what he had to say in 1954, however, remember water. In 1950's and 60's, the first fossils were only a half a billion years ago, so there are 3 billion years of blank space in there in which life is thought to have evolved. So he is talking about these 3 billion years for the random reactions.
Then comes another Harvard professor in 1975 and 76, Elsa Barsham discovers that the oldest 'big' fossils that we have, fossils that you can easily see, do indeed date, only to about 600 million years, about a half a billion years ago. But the fossil record Professor Barsham discovered also go back 3.8 billion years or 3.7 billion years. But it is one celled before the Cambrian explosion, and they are close to 3 billion years. Then out of the blue this explosion of life. And based on that, 25 years later after 1954, Scientific American reprinted Wald's article with a retraction, they retracted the article. Although stimulating, this article probably represents one of the few times in his professional life was wrong, can we really examine George Wald's thesis and see, can we really perform a biological cell by waiting for chance combinations of organic compounds. This would require more time than the universe might ever see if chance random combinations were the only driving force for life. In peer review journals since 1979, you will not find the fact that life started by random reactions. You will always find that a catalyst is required, a force is required, something is required in the environment that forces the life to occur.
Wald being intellectually honest and strong of character in 1984, 5 years after the retraction, and 30 years after his article about random reactions producing life, which led research off on a wild goose chase for about 25 years, Wald writes the following. In an article published in the International Journal of Quantum Chemistry 1984, "It has occurred to me lately and I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities that the questions of the origin of consciousness in humans, and the origin of life from non living matter, might both be brought to some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that the mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life has in fact existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of the physical reality, that stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind stuff, it is mind that has composed the physical universe that breeds life, and so eventually evolves creatures."
Quantum physics has also caught up. There is a wide agreement which in the physical side of the sciences approaches unanimity that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non mechanical reality. That the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. The mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder in the realm of matter, we are beginning to suspect that we ought to hail the mind as the creator and the governor of the realm of matter. Not of course our individual minds but the mind in which the atoms out of which the entire universe has grown exist as thoughts. Werner Heisenberg Nobel Laureate in quantum mechanics, he said quantum mechanics has placed the universe in a different footing. Quantum mechanics is not some esoteric theory on the corner in a shelf somewhere. Quantum mechanics allows your digital watch to work, allows your remote control that turns on your TV or opens your car to work. Verna Heisenberg said that their are inherent difficulties in the materialist theories of existence (that everything is material). The materialist theories of existence appeared in the development of the physics of the 20th century. This difficulty relates to the question as whether the smallest units of matter such as atoms in which we and all objects from bacteria to galaxies are composed or ordinary physical objects, and whether they exist in the same way as flowers and stones, that you can touch them. Here, quantum theory has created a complete change in the situation. They say the smallest units of matter are not in fact physical objects, in the ordinary sense of the word, they are ideas.
Erwin Schrodinger winner of the Nobel Prize the year after Heisenberg, again for quantum mechanics, said we do not belong to this material role that science constructs for us. We, the awareness of being ourselves are not part of it. We are outside, we are only spectators, the reason why we believe that we are in it, that we belong to this picture is that our bodies are in the picture, and that is the only way of our minds communicating within. The reality is there is a substrate, that has allowed this phenomenal complexity to exist. That things like DNA, itself is complex, but it is a closed book. The real complexity of life is not in the DNA. The real complexity of life is the reading of the DNA. Of which course, the DNA is self structured to develop a system that can read it. The reading of the DNA, the complexity of life, is overwhelming. The question is from where does it arise. How did light beams manage to do all these things. Let alone to wonder about them. Because that is what is happening with condensed light beams. It sounds corny, we are condensed, or poetic that we are made of stardust. But we are. 5 billion years ago, everything you see around you, including what you see in the mirror when you brush your teeth in the morning was stardust and it just happened to become alive. And that stardust was made up with primitive, initial elements of the universe, the hydrogen and the helium, a few of the elements, and those elements were made of quarks, and those quarks were made of the light of creation. The light of creation shines in everyone. We just have to let it shine forth.
Gurmat Gyan (Knowledge)
Other Gurbani Contributors