Was Carl right?

“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”
– Carl Sagan

Was Carl right? Many would say yes, some might say maybe.

I’d have to say no, and I’d like to explain my reasoning not from a religious perspective, but as best as I can from a programming perspective.

When I come to a computer environment to start working on a blog, or tutorial about JavaScript as I’ve been writing, or checking Facebook for no reason, I come to an environment that is built upon the work of many minds that spent time putting this environment together. Although I do not see these minds or know them, it seems to make more sense that something or somethings put this environment together.

My reasoning for expecting computers to work predictably is that they have been programmed intentionally. Perhaps they aren’t programmed perfectly or as I would have them, but yet the evidence of a predictable environment suggests that there at least is something(s) outside the environment that put this together.

Does the order of the cosmos suggest something outside the cosmos?

I think so, and yes, I “think”. I do not have the ability to prove something outside the universe because I am confined to my universe. Yet, Carl Sagan was confined to the same universe, and he said, “The cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” He did not say, “There’s proof that the cosmos is all…” or “Perhaps the cosmos is all..” or “I think the cosmos is all…”. No, he said bluntly, “The cosmos is all…”

How did he know that? Was he somehow able to step outside the cosmos, look around and have proof that there was nothing else, and then step back into the cosmos? No, that’s what he believed. He couldn’t possibly know, because the only way to test the theory that the cosmos is the only thing that exists would be to have god-like attributes like omnipresence. Omnipresence would give one the ability to be present everywhere or anywhere, thus giving someone the ability to go backward in time to actually observe the beginning of the universe and the beginning of life.

Predictable order of the universe

One of the reasons I think or believe in something outside the cosmos is because of the predictable order of the universe. The scientific method works because the universe is predictable because of the observable laws of nature. We call them “laws” because they happen all the time in a predictable fashion. Protons, neutrons, quarks, atoms, etc. all work in a rather predictable fashion. We live in a predictable, ordered universal environment. No god, gods, angels, demons or fairy tale creatures are necessary – that’s just how it is.

Now, the web environment is predictable too. If I create a blank file called cosmos.js and write the following:

console.log('Hello world');

I know that the console is going to log a message saying ‘Hello world’. It’s predictable and works. Yet, it’s predictable and works because it’s programmed to work.

Programming languages and abiogenesis

Now the way the laws of nature work could be compared to the operating system or hardware of a computer, whereas life itself could be compared to a programming language like JavaScript. We have code in our DNA. Regardless of theories regarding evolution or creation, we can scientifically observe that all life has code within it. Without diving too far into microbiology, I see a comparison between the minimal basics for life, or living machines on the molecular level, and the minimal basics of a programming language.

Inside the universe, you can have random atoms or molecules stick together just fine. However, to get to the minimal basics of a living machine, say even the most primitive single-celled organism, you need more than that.

Here’s a dilemma: We all have to “think” or “believe” something regarding where life came from. I’m not alone on this. You can read the entry in Wikipedia about on Abiogenesis. There’s lot of different ideas of theories from scientists who do not resort to “Well, God must have done it.” Please note the repeated use of the word “thought”, “may”. They at least are being honest when they use such terminology because they can’t be certain unless they could hop in a Delorean and go back in time 3.5 billion years to have proof.

Programming languages from goo?

I hope you read the article on Abiogenesis, because I have to ask this question:

Is it likely that random molecules in a random pool could have randomly formed the bare minimum form of life which would possess a built-in programming language, such as in the form of RNA/DNA?

In the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard discovered he’s responsible for destroying humanity. In trying to figure out how this happens, he inadvertently causes a temporal anomaly in space. However, the anomaly is working backward in time, so the farther back in time he goes, the bigger the anomaly. Picard is stumped because he can’t figure out what’s the problem, so his friend Q takes him back to France, about several billion years ago.

Q points out that the anomaly has consumed much of the galaxy at this point in time. He also points out that life is about to form for the first time from a mixture of animo acids and proteins from this warm pool of goo. He whispers to Picard,

“Oh, look! There they go. The amino acids are moving closer and closer, and closer.”

Then he says,

“Ooh! Nothing happened. See what you’ve done?”

Now, in this science fiction show, life was supposed to “happen” from a stew of animo acids swimming together, but Captain Picard caused an anomaly that prevented it.

It’s good science fiction, but is it really reasonable to think that stews of chemicals can randomly build a single-celled organism, even a “protocell“? That cell needs to be able to live, do stuff, convert matter into energy, replicate, protect itself from the environment, etc.

Recently, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos has had a comeback with a reboot hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Here’s something wise he said:

“Test ideas by experiment and observation; build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail; follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything.”

Everything means everything, right?


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