God exists at the limits of human understanding

God exists at the limits of human understanding
I know that I am mortal and a creature of a day, but when I search out the massed wheeling circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the earth, but, side by side with Zeus himself. I take my fill of ambrosia, the food of the gods.”
-Claudius Ptolemaeus
Claudius ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) was the most influential Greek astronomer and geographer of his time, from about 85 AD to 165 AD. He propounded the geocentric theory that prevailed for over 1400 years, that was the theory that stated that the earth was the centre of the universe and all other celestial objects orbited around it. Observations made at the time seemed to support the theory; firstly it seemed that stars, the sun and the planets revolved around the earth each day; and secondly the earth does not seem to move from the perspective of an earth bound observer, giving the illusion that it is at rest.
Among Ptolemy’s works is almagest, which translated means “the greatest”. This work was a mathematical and astronomical treatise on complex motions of stars and planetary paths. But in the margin of the manuscript Ptolemy penned the words:
          “I know that I am mortal and a creature of a day, but when I search out the massed wheeling circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the earth, but, side by side with Zeus himself. I take my fill of ambrosia, the food of the gods.”
 
There, in this quote, a great astronomer is admitting to have feelings of religious sensation, only invoked when he had reached the limits of his understanding, surrendering to a higher power only when staring into the ocean of his own ignorance.
This trend of surrendering scientific investigation to religious revelation would persist for the next 2000 years.
It was not until the 16th century that the geocentric model, placing the earth at the centre of the universe, was superseded by the heliocentric model, in which the earth and planets revolved around a stationary sun at the center of the solar system, presented by nicolaus Copernicus, this model was elaborated and expanded by Johannes kepler with supporting observations made by Galileo galilei in the following century.
It took approximately 1400 years for scientific discovery to expand that frontier of knowledge that was previously submitted to intelligent design. Religiousness stifled scientific knowledge.
In Isaac Newton’s monograph philosiphae naturalis principia mathematica published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics, describing universal gravitation and the three laws of motion. Newton showed that the motions of objects on earth and of celestial bodies were governed by the same set of natural laws, demonstrating a consistency between his theory of gravitation and Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, removing any lingering doubts of the heliocentric model thus advancing and cementing that scientific front in astronomy.
Newton’s laws of gravity enable you to calculate the force of attraction between any 2 objects. But introduce a third object, then a fourth, then a fifth and so on, the orbits the bodies trace become much more complicated to compute. Fearful that all this pulling would render the orbits of the planets unstable, his equations indicated that the planets should long ago have either fallen into the sun or be flung off into the darkness of the universe. But the solar system appeared to be the very model of order and his equations couldn’t account for this. He had reached his limits of understanding.
And so in his greatest work, in the absence of data, at the boundary between what he could explain and what he could merely honour – the causes he could identify and those he could not, Newton concludes that god must once in a while step provide assistance:
 
The six primary Planets are revolv’d about the Sun, in circles concentric with the Sun, and with motions directed towards the same parts, and almost in the same plane. . . . But it is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions. . . . This most beautiful System of the Sun,
Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.
This is yet another great scientist invoking intelligent design and resigning his scientific process of discovery to a supreme being.
Nowhere else in Newton’s work did he cite a god or intelligent creator; it was only when faced with a difficult challenge did he surrender to an intelligent creator.
At around the same time was a brilliant Dutch mathematician, physicist and astronomer called christiaan Huygens, who identified the rings of Saturn to indeed be rings and who discovered the moon ‘titan’ amongst other works.
Huygens, a very influential mathematician at the time and had a firm grasp of all the concepts and mathematics concerning orbits of the planets, the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.  But as soon as he talks about biology and the mechanics of life, something that wasn’t understood well then or today, out comes the references to god. These references were found nowhere else in his writings, they only emerged when he reached the boundaries of his understanding:
I suppose nobody will deny but that there’s somewhat more of Contrivance, somewhat more of Miracle in the production and growth of Plants and Animals than in lifeless heaps of inanimate Bodies. . . . For the finger of God, and the Wisdom of Divine Providence, is in them much more clearly manifested than in the other.”
A century later, the French astronomer and mathematician Pierre-Simon de Laplace took on the dilemma of Newton’s unstable orbits, where Newton had declared the mysterious stability of the solar system in the realm of divine providence, Laplace saw it as a scientific challenge.
At the end of the 18tf the 18th century Laplace wrote a 5 volume tome on celestial mechanics, taking Newton’s laws of gravity and brings them into a full expressions using the tools of calculus, developing and perfects a branch of mathematics called perturbation theory, which enables him to examine the cumulative effects of many small forces.
In a conversation between Laplace and his friend napoleon Bonaparte; napoleon asked, what role god played in the construction and regulations of the heavens. Laplace replied: sire, I have no need for that hypothesis.
Where Newton previously incited a god -or gods- when it came to the mysterious stability of the solar system, Laplace had solved the problem bringing the concepts from the realm of a divine creator into the realm of scientific knowledge.
Throughout scientific history scientists only called upon god when their comprehension faded to ignorance. Intelligent design in ONLY invoked when one stands on the boundaries of their knowledge and understanding of the universe and is staring at the abyss of their own ignorance. Religiousness, one can say, stifles scientific discovery, and is an indirect submission to ignorance.
Islam as a community is a fantastic example of how religion stifles scientific discovery. There’s a prevailing trend in the notion that if one did it first and did it best, the naming would become part of the cultural zeitgeist and wisdom.
For example, the main stage for discovery in particle physics was America after World War II. And its evident in the names of some of the heavy elements in the periodic table, there’s americium, californium, berkelium, and einsteinium and so on. The same could be said for the constellations, the Greeks thought up the names for the constellations and did it best and so they have remained.
After the 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York, President Bush addressed the nation, and in so he loosely quoted a phrase out of the bible, in an attempt to distinguish the “good” guys from the “bad” he remarked; “our god, is the god that named the stars”, unbeknown to him, of all the stars that even have names, over two thirds of them have Arabic names.
This is down to a particularly intellectually fertile 300 year period from 800 AD to 1100 AD where the intellectual capital of the world was Baghdad. Where travellers and visitors of all religions and races would come together and share ideas. This fertile period can be merited to advances in biology, engineering, medicine, astronomy, celestial navigation mathematics etc. this is more than evident in the common wisdom of our culture, the numerals we all use are called; Arabic numerals, a whole branch of mathematics was invented, algebra, itself an Arabic word, but at the turn of the 12th century an Islamic scholar called Hamid al-Ghazali (AD 1058 – 1111) began to influence the rate of scientific discovery, and from his work came the philosophy that mathematics was the work of the devil, and along with other prevalent philosophies of the time, the entire intellectual foundation of the Islamic community crumbled and has not recovered even until today, almost 1000 years later.
This is worrying when we fast forward to today’s society where we see more and more schools choosing to teach creationism instead of evolution, especially in America, which is a plays a major role in the expansion scientific knowledge on the fronts of astrophysics and particle physics.
With human civilizations ever increasing demand for energy, which is paramount to the evolution of culture, scientific knowledge included, the future of the industrialized economies is hinged upon the fact that nothing must not stand in the way of scientific investigation and and technological innovation, for it is science and education in the seeking of truth that lays the foundation to a tolerant, understanding and prosperous society.
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