Rationalising the Universe was never set up as a facility to express opinion, unless in relation to the forefront of science and the perimeter of human knowledge. On the odd occasion opinion based comment seems relevant, for example during the European Referendum in June 2016 (to no avail) and again in my last opinion piece, Are we lost?. Here we explored my personal viewpoint on the trajectory of the human race, which surprised me in becoming my most popular piece. Today I venture into opinion based writing once more, as I express old views in light new events. Inherent in the nature of this post I do not present absolute fact.
The title of this post is central pillar of this line of argument. Studying theoretical physics one is required to think big; both in the literal sense of the universe and singularities, along with the metaphorical sense of string theory or quantum entanglement. When we leave this impenetrable fortress of academia, we find ourselves assaulted with a host of much smaller thoughts to contend with. Some of these are perfectly natural and necessary, such as deciding what you have for dinner, when to wash your clothes or which movie to dull your aching brain with. These thoughts are small but we take no issue with them, they are essential thoughts which form part an valuable function in a much larger mission.
Lurking among the natural and necessary small thoughts lay a host of other constructions which promote small thinking offering no upside. These are far more dangerous to indulge in, since they promote a way of thinking that blocks big thinking. Big thinking went to the moon, climbed Everest, realized time was only relative and that our bodies are the byproduct of the stars. Small thinking gave us two world wars, terrorism, racism, sexism and Donald J Trump. I am of the opinion that if, as a species of animal, we do not strive to change our way of thinking we have no future on the time scales the universe is interested in; a view shared my many big names (recommendation: Our Final Century, Martin Rees).
This idea does not sit well with me, as I feel I have been endowed with a dual survival instinct; one for myself and one for my species.
On the division of land
I am from the United Kingdom; this is where I was born, this is the country that has issued my passport. I feel fortunate to live in a land which affords me the freedom to study as I wish, to have an education and to live without fear of starvation or poor health. If you were to ask me am I proud to live in the United Kingdom my answer would be no, which is the answer I would like every citizen of every country to share. There is a distinct difference between feeling fortunate and feeling proud. Feeling fortunate is for things which have a positive impact, whereas feeling proud is for things that both have a positive impact and require personal effort. I can assure you I put in no personal effort to be born in the United Kingdom and would feel equally fortunate to live in any of the free countries in the world.
The Earth on which we reside is a rocky planet, orbiting a medium sized star in a very unimpressive galaxy cluster. The mind reels with awe when you consider how insignificant our galaxy is; even if you believe this is the only universe that exists. A pinprick. Aside from the obvious Physical issues; even travelling close to the speed of light I wouldn’t have a chance of seeing the whole universe – in fact I wouldn’t even come close. In a single second light can circle the Earth 7.5 times, yet it take a full 8 minutes 20 seconds to travel from the closest star – which is very close to us indeed on galactic scales. Returning back to little Earth, my friends do you not feel we have been short changed? There is a whole universe out there and we have been imprisoned on a small rock. When you have a small piece of anything the most illogical thing you can do is to make it smaller.
Countries do provide a necessary function. There are administrative functions that are too big to manage on a global scale – for example registering people to travel has a necessary security function and it makes sense to subdivide responsibility. Not everywhere in the world wants the same public holidays, or indeed the same experiences with regard to taxation or schools. Furthermore there are logistical barriers between certain landmasses – oceans and other separations that just make the parts of the Earth naturally discrete and difficult to manage together. The peaceful functioning of this planet does rely on certain tasks being split down to country level – I have no fear of this mindset providing this is the end of it; administrative functions to enable us to live our lives the way we want to.
The scenes in the below video make me desperately uncomfortable. There is no more reason to be proud of living in the USA as there is in any other free country. We need to move forward from being able to win over popular opinion by creating a nationalistic atmosphere. To see groups of fully grown adults, including the President-elect of the USA blindly chanting the name of a country over and over again in a patriotic fever is not the direction that will promote big thinking. Patriotism is pride for ones country; which as outlined I don’t believe in – we need to keep the tiny world as large as we possibly can. Notice that the greatest minds in history saw this planet from a global perspective while some of the most destructive humans who ever lived saw an inward projection of countries, and superiority over other countries. The division of land has become one of man’s most misinterpreted designs.
On the equality of people
On the news in the UK we continually hear about targets for ethnic minorities, gender balance and the LGBT community in respect of jobs or university places. It makes me sad every time I hear about these targets, even when the news is that we have hit them. This is of course not because I don’t want them hit, rather it reminds me I live in an era where we still need them. We still require statistics to remind us that someone isn’t more or less qualified as a result of their reproductive organs, their place of birth or their race.
Science is one of the most collaborative disciplines simply because it has to be; there is a good chance that as a species we will not unlock the secrets of this planet before it is too late and the information is lost. A terrifying prospect we have to swallow and move forward with in the best way we can, which is to ensure no brain is excluded from working on the important problems posed to us by the universe. The very idea in science that you would judge or exclude someone based on anything but intellect is ludicrous (note: I am aware historically this has not always been so). In the future the human race will find a way to remove a brain and place it in a more durable shell – this seems inevitable if we are to better ourselves. When this happens, the humans of the future will look back at us and they will laugh. They will laugh about the amount of time we spent discussing issues which relate to nothing but the appearance of our flimsy biological housing.
The world is a very different place right now, with a long way to go until we can say that equality is no longer an issue. The choice that was made in the world which cannot be ignored; for the eagled eyed yes world this issue effects us all. Watch the below video – as a boyfriend, as a brother and as a human being the content of this fills me with fear. The fear is bipartite. Firstly, there exists humans with families, friends and successful lives who hold these opinions. Secondly, society is not ready to swiftly exclude those who express such a rhetoric.
I have heard every argument; from Secretary Clinton wasn’t good enough, it is because of the turn-out or my favourite; people just want a change. The reason I chose to display the comments made by the President-elect in relation to women over ethnic minorities, disabled people or the LGBT community is that women overall form the largest group in America personally alienated by the election campaign. I would hope that this would be enough to turn off every single man, and astounded if it was not enough to turn off every single woman, or in other words around 50% of the electorate. The content of the video above is a perfect display of thinking small; of allowing superfluous hormones to wash through the brain and defy reasoning and logic. To allow small minded beliefs of superiority get in the way of the bigger picture – a species of animal who are quite literally fighting for their survival with the brain as a weapon.
The entire world got grabbed by the pussy, with rewards served up for the offender. We must to do better as a species – it does not matter if the human ticks every other box 10 times over, if the person is small minded when it comes to our own species they must be called out. Where exceptions to this rule are made, progress will be hampered. We do not owe Donald Trump an open mind; this was offered at the start of the presidential race, we are in a position to cast judgement.
On the world as it stands
As we look across the world and the picture we see is frightening. Speaking of where I sit, in the United Kingdom we have a government weakening the country leaving our most prosperous and natural union on miss-information and fear of immigration. The small mindset of personal gain, patriotism and fear of our own species has dominated the outlook for the future. Further afield and the picture does not get better. We have the resurgence of far right politics through many lands, includng France, Belarus and Austria. The middle east is at breaking point, with religious extremism, a mismanaged war and innocent humans trapped in the melee. Terrorists beheading innocent people, in regions where governments behead criminals. Major powers struggling to let go of defunct regeimes, a tyrant ruling in North Korea, corrupt governments in various poor nations embezzling the funds from starving citizens, homeless people in rich nations, climate change spiralling out of control and a stockpile of nuclear weapons which is only rising.
How do we make any kind of positive impression?
When I first set up Rationalising the Universe I spent quite a long time ensuring that my profile on this site was shielded from my social media presence, being the tenuous connections whom I had accumulated over time. I didn’t really give this much thought until one of my friends stumbled across the site by chance and I was undeniably embarrassed. This is a crinkle in my own logical fabric; I sit here trying to promote and popularise science and intelligent thought and then shield it from those who actually know me. The message is wrong. You will of course be pleased to know I removed the crinkle, sharing this site freely forever more but the reason it was there in the first place? Fear of speaking out on the issues that matter to me. I am not sure if that’s a fear of disagreement or just fear of leaving my deepest beliefs generally exposed for analysis – but it existed, despite all the thinking I have done on this subject.
This probably happens to most of us; a conglomeration of 7bn people sharing a fear of speaking about the things in which they believe. It is all very easy to promote big thinking and speaking up for what you believe in online, but how many of us actually do it in our day to day lives? What if the victory of Donald Trump was not the victory of the silent majority of supporters as suggested, but the loss of the silent opposers. I fundamentally believe the majority of the world thinks in the way I believe to be right. More people voted against Trump than for. More millennials voted against Brexit than for, and these people are after all the future. If anything comes out of the ashes of 2016, let’s hope it is the galvanisation of honest moderate beliefs and the engagement of people. If the lesson is learnt that disengagement brings unfavourable results there may just be hope for us yet; a better era where it is encouraged and respected to think big and to think loudly. This is how I see it – as a scientist, as a physicist and as a human.