'Cosmogony' is not a familiar word to most people. Yet, in this essay, I intend to show that all people believe in some cosmogony or other. Cosmogony is a story of how all of reality, or the cosmos, came to be in the first place. Cosmology, which is a slightly more familiar term, is the story of what has happened in the cosmos since that beginning.
I have divided the idea of cosmogony into three overlapping but arbitrary types:
1. Received Cosmogony,
2. Inspired Cosmogony, and
3. Logical Cosmogony.
People fall into at least one of these categories and most belong in all three. But there is usually an emphasis on just one of them, and that sort of characterizes the individual's personally held cosmogony. I consider myself to be a Logical Cosmogonist and in this essay I will try to explain why and give you my views on the subject.
Everybody has a belief in some idea of how the universe, or cosmos, began. They may not spend much time thinking about it, but if you asked them how the universe got started, most people would give you some kind of answer. Most of them would give you an account that I classify as Received Cosmogony. That simply means that the person received the story from someone they trust, most likely their parents.
Received Cosmogony includes all the accounts of the beginning of the universe as dictated in the scriptures and precepts of the world's religions. So most Christians would answer that the universe began as described in Genesis. Muslims and Jews would have a similar belief, since the same story serves for their religious doctrines. Other religions have other stories which are received and accepted by their adherents as soon as they are capable of asking questions about cosmological origins and understanding the answer. I would guess that well over half, and probably a much greater fraction, of the world's population falls into the category of people accepting a Received Cosmogony.
Inspired Cosmogony could be considered as a subset of Received Cosmogony except that instead of receiving the story of origins from other people, the Inspired Cosmogonist receives the story from somewhere inside his/her own mind. But for my purposes here, I will keep this category separate and not consider it part of Received Cosmogony.
The number of Inspired Cosmogonists is extremely small compared to the number of Received Cosmogonists. It includes only the people who believe that they somehow received some true insight into the origins of reality that did not come from the stories told by other people. They had an actual personal experience that revealed the story, or part of it, directly. It is from among this group that religions were founded. It was true in ancient times for such people as Moses, Gautama Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, and it is true even in modern times for such people as Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Jim Jones, and a few others.
The Inspired Cosmogonists are not limited to religious founders, however. There are many people who have formed beliefs about the origin of reality who have not founded religions. These include people, for example, who have been inspired by personal experiences under the influence of drugs, or as a result of an NDE, or even in a state of insomnia after a prolonged debate in a dorm room lasting into the wee hours. There is a fine line, though. If any of these accounts gets publicized to the point of other people accepting the story as their Received Cosmogony, then a new religion may blossom, as seems to be the case with Edgar Cayce or Eben Alexander.
The third category, that of Logical Cosmogony, further blurs the already blurred lines, but the category is defined by people who make a deliberate and conscious attempt to logically deduce the story of origins based on empirical evidence, and then adopt the resulting story as their belief. This group contains the scientists who claim to be atheists and who have given serious thought to the question of the origin of reality.
Most scientists, however, have received their cosmogony story by accepting the current scientific paradigm story of the Big Bang without seriously questioning it. If their acceptance is blind, and they give no serious thought to the question, then they probably should be classified as Received Cosmogonists.
Those of us who consider ourselves to be Logical Cosmogonists really want to avoid being classified with the other two groups. Bumping up against the blurry boundaries, it is almost always the case that the earliest foundations of a person's views of cosmogony were established by Received Cosmogony. But those beliefs were abandoned later as the individual's personal logical story developed.
There is also a blurring on the boundary with Inspired Cosmogony in cases where a person has experienced an NDE or some other altered state of mind. The Logical Cosmogonist will not accept those inspirations without question, but will examine them to see if they fit into a logical explanation before they are accepted as beliefs.
In my case, I was born into a traditional Protestant Christian family and received the biblical story of origins. I can't say that I believed the stories, although I could recite them and I ritually declared that I believed them. I questioned the veracity of the stories almost as soon as I learned them and understood them. I claim that they form no basis for my beliefs at this time, but I suspect that through the process of imprinting, they are still there in some form in spite of my denial and my attempts to eliminate and replace them.
I have also experienced some altered states of mind from trauma and from nitrous oxide in the dentist's chair. Even though the experiences seemed real, I never accepted them as real without doubt. I have considered them only as suggestions and inspirations for hypotheses to include in my logical development of my real beliefs.
This whole subject area is very complex and hard to come to grips with. But I think that by considering these three sources of input to our process of developing beliefs about reality we can be a little more honest about those beliefs. In looking at headlines of current events around the world, it seems that some adjustments in people's beliefs might make for a much more peaceful world.
So now let me try to describe my own approach to developing my cosmogony. Since the approach is logical, it must have a logical starting point. That would be the set of premises or initial assumptions on which the logical case rests. By laying them out specifically, we can avoid the mistake of making hidden and unacknowledged assumptions. If some hidden assumptions still remain undisclosed, I implore the reader to bring them to my attention.
My basic assumptions are that,
1. Reality is consistent, i.e. it does not contain contradictions.
2. Reality is finite, i.e. there is nothing "infinite" in existence in spite of the frequent claim that the word 'infinity' represents ideas that are in some sense infinite.
3. Reality is dynamic. Change is undeniable, so change must have happened between the cosmological origin and the writing (or reading) of this essay.
4. The origin of reality was ultimately simple. In my view, it is not logical to suppose that there existed anything very complex before existence itself began.
5. Nothing real is perfect, complete, immutable, omnipotent, omniscient, or infinite.
Obviously many of these assumptions are not only debatable, but categorically denied by most people. But I am prepared to defend each of them and I eagerly invite challenges to them. If anyone can persuade me to alter or drop any of these, I will happily do so. But after some seventy years of thinking about these ideas, any challenger will have to make a pretty good case in order to persuade me to change any of them.
My thinking about these ideas has by no means come to an end. I am still actively working on the development of my cosmogony both by considering ideas expressed by others, and by trying to systematically organize my own ideas into a logical structure on the Euclidean model.
Lately, I have been involved in deep discussions with Greylorn Ell where we discuss both his ideas of cosmogony and mine. He is one of the few people I have run across who accepts my list of five basic assumptions. I have also been attempting to document my ideas and this very essay is one of several I have written that are part of that effort. Another part is a series of what I have titled "Musings". This is a stream-of-consciousness capture where, when I am in the right frame of mind and have the opportunity, I sit down at the keyboard and compose a narrative of my thoughts attempting to work out the details involved in developing and explaining my ideas of cosmogony and cosmology.
Before bringing this essay to a close, I will leave you with a teaser in the hopes that it will arouse your interest in following my developments in more depth. These are some ideas that I expect to develop, explain, and defend in the future.
1. Thought happens.
2. All hypotheses for the ontological essence reduce to concepts of one sort or another.
3. In order for concepts to exist, something like a mind must first exist.
4. The capability for conscious experience is ontologically fundamental.
5. Only two real things exist: consciousness and its thoughts.
6. Conscious experience should be considered the most baffling mystery of the universe.
7. No material machine can be conscious.
8. Sleep should be considered the most baffling mystery of life.
9. The phenomenon of sleep is a strong counter-example for evolution explaining all of biology.
10. Penrose's Treblism is undeniable (the mental, physical, and ideal worlds).
11. The Axiom of Choice makes mathematics inconsistent and unsuitable to describe reality.
12. The universe has more than four space-time dimensions.
13. A space can't be bent unless it is a manifold embedded in a space of one greater dimension.
14. All religions represent truth only at a naive allegorical level.
Much more to follow.
Paul R. MartinPlease send me an email with your comments.
©2015 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.