Science in all its amazing advances still admits it does not know the ultimate truths of our existence — who we are, why we are here, what reality is. In place of this knowing some choose faith as one lens e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, et al. Even though perhaps attending a specific church, many slide easily into the prevailing unspoken lens of our times — the lens that earlier science gave us and which still sticks in our head (and eyes). We assume unthinkingly that the lens of science has not changed in 200 years.
The old lens is the lens of materialism, which says matter is the primary constituent of the universe. The lens that says the universe is an accident, and the force of its accidental explosion into being caused and still causes most major interactions to occur through collisions, e.g. stars, planets, satellites, asteroids, comets. The lens that says life also began by accidental collisions forming chemicals and then proteins and eventually life. Life then evolved through the destruction of all but the accidentally survivable species. And life then evolved consciousness accidentally, and the consciousness we experience is a phenomenon projected by the material brain somehow, all on its own. And of course, each consciousness is forever separate, cut off, and in competition with everything else in the universe for survival, eking out as much contentment as possible against great odds.
Science has matured enough to realize that the latter is all a lens and not proven truth. In fact its central premise, all that exists is matter, has been utterly blown away. Matter turns out to be (as Indian sages said thousands of years ago) an appearance of what is really going on, which when you are able to detect really small interactions, everything is ultimately not matter, but energy. Matter is made of energy. Another way to see this is that the macro phenomena we associate with the word “matter” are illusions of the interactions between our sensory apparatus and the energy swirls in our immediate vicinity. One scientist once said it this way (wish I remembered which scientist): matter is just light revolving rather than moving in a straight path.
My favorite physicist John Wheeler then decomposes energy as the ultimate substrate of matter by saying that information is even more basic and foundational than energy to what the universe is.
These are all still lenses, ways of gestalting the universe. Not scientifically proven truth, nor fact. Models. Constructs. Ways of talking about things, ways of looking at things, ways of seeing them.
It’s good to be able to remember this and not be stuck in making fixed immovable assumptions that are hidden from ourselves, based on the autonomic and forgotten use of lenses. Because then we use these hidden assumptions as the basis for decision making, even when we do not realize we are making decisions every moment. Choices that keep us moving in a direction that at the same time might be a direction we complain about.
In the absence of knowing much, there is a way of making decisions that works extremely well when it is actually applied. This is called Game Theory.
With Game Theory, when you don’t know what the outcomes will be, you list possible outcomes and then see which ones you like. Then you see if you can convince yourself to make the decisions that will get you moving in one of those preferred directions.
How much meaning do you want to see in life, in your everyday, second-to-second life? If you want there to be rich meaning abounding, then choose a lens that gives you that view. A lens that makes things more explainable and understandable. Remember, it is still just a lens!
For example, let’s say that in terms of the nature of reality, there are really only two clusters of lenses to choose from. One says there is something like a God, and the other says there is nothing like a God.
Through the lenses that say there is something like a God, there appears to be an abundance of meaning in our lives. In the other cluster of lenses, there appears to be a dearth of meaning — much happens that makes no sense, nor do we expect it to make sense.
I was in this lens for many years. It came from being so impressed by science as a kid. I can testify that there are good things about this lens. For one thing, it makes one feel terribly independent, an independent thinker, since most of the world is in the other lens cluster. It sometimes strips away so many considerations that you can quickly look at situations and see the barest of elements, the quintessence. There is a certain minimalist “cleanliness” if not clarity.
Emotionally the lens of being alone in an unbenevolent universe can be toughening, allowing you to more easily become fatalistic and to shed many of your attachments. You get in the habit of not making assumptions but rather being very commonsense and down to earth. Very empirical. You don’t lean on illusions or faith or anyone else to define reality for you. All of which can be good.
The God lens from the standpoint of Game Theory has its benefits too. Again we are not saying anything definitive about the true nature of reality. We are only discussing the lenses we can look through.
Through the lens that says the universe is not accidental and intelligence was present from the beginning, intelligence may indeed be the ultimate “information processor” that both started the universe and is the universe. Everything else — information, energy, matter — is epiphenomena arising in appearance from this intelligence as the single existent thing in the universe.
This is somewhat of a new lens — I might even be inventing it — in the cluster of lenses I have dubbed the “Something like God exists” cluster.
The other lenses in this cluster are more “religious” in their depiction of the underlying intelligence. Mine is more “scientific”. On the other hand, when one looks back through history for others who have espoused lenses similar to mine, one goes all the way back to native shamans and to what for a long time we have called “pantheism”. Certainly all mystics use lenses that come close to mine in the sense that they are mystics — admitting they still operate in the mists, with no one fixed ideology.
This scientific-mystic lens affords meaning to everything. Use this lens (without believing it to be the truth, nor disbelieving it) if you yearn to have more meaning in your life. You will always see the meanings as tentative without become locked into them, but at least you will see a wealth more meaning in your life.
Since meaning adds a sense of value to all human beings, the Game Theory “bet” on intelligence behind the universe is a better bet than the opposite bet, because it imputes more value to life.
However, I am not saying you should make a bet, just continue to keep an open mind, and experiment with both lenses.
In fact it will help you shoulder on the mantle of this lens to remember that you don’t know the meaning of life or reality — nobody does, it is all a wonder-fully thrilling awesome unknown. This makes it interesting, mysterious-mystical, immense, awe-inspiring. Wouldn’t we be missing something if we did know everything?
Since a universal intelligence of some kind cannot be ruled out, this lens allows you to entertain explanations for things in every moment both with and without God or Universal Intelligence in your mindstream.
Wearing this pure empirical maximal-skeptic lens you will start to see possible reasons why certain things happened — as if the universe is trying to help you — even by putting certain training obstacles in your path. I call this noia — being the opposite of paranoia.
By seeing things as possible gifts from the universe even if they are not, and even if they don’t feel like gifts, you gain some leverage from being able to see how to use the event better. Game Theory.
You benefit most by being able to switch lenses at will. Have fun!
Best to all,