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June 29, 1993

Ask Dr. Salvo

Dear E.T.,

Salvo sends a thousand apologies for suddenly disappearing and falling silent. It is of some interest that no sooner was Salvo gone, or quiet, when an entire debating society sprang up and began sending Salvo numerous letters. These eruptions were so full of passion and ratiocination that they demanded publication. True to his writers -- who up till recently have been so scarce -- Salvo has given way to them and mostly held his peace, letting them answer one another. Keeping quiet, as you know, is a major sacrifice for Salvo. Still, he must rejoice at all the correspondence, its spirited quality, and the relief he feels at not being obliged to write letters to himself!

Salvo hereby presents the latest batch of ontological-eschatological speculation.

Salvo (who has been given the privilege of the third person in referring to self)

Dear Salvo,

This letter is in response to the essay on "Thinking About Origins" by Paul of Tarsas, in Vol. XI, No. 12 (3/30-4/12) of The Harbinger. I enjoy debating the seemingly undebatable issue of the origin of all things. I hope that others might come forth with information and ideas on the subject. The following is a letter addressed directly to Paul of Tarsas.

Jake Fannin

Dear Paul of Tarsus,

I've enjoyed reading your essay. Your point of view is interesting to say the least. I'd like to comment on a few of the points you made, and afterwards offer some observations on a related subject of "the big question."

For those readers who didn't have the opportunity to read Paul's essay, I will put my interpretation of his work in quotes, (the quotes aren't exact, rather they are a précis of selected points).

You have stated that your thesis "is based upon the scientific data of the Big Bang Theory"; that this is where it all started.

Did it?

For me it is not enough to say "Big Bang. There it is. The beginning of our evolution!"

Another facet of the theory states that as the matter of the universe expands it will ultimately reach terminal velocity and begin to contract -- all due to gravity. Upon becoming, once again, a great big ball of matter in the universe, there would ultimately be another Big Bang.

How many times has this happened?

How many times will it happen?

Here again we seem to have another endless circle (infinity). The circle does seem to be the geometric shape of everything, doesn't it? And the problem with a circle is that you can't tell where it begins or ends (unless, of course, you were the one who drew it!). Yes I'll agree that time is not a good measuring tool for this circle -- space/time is the circle.

"Does God have a memory?"

Well, I do believe we are created in His image. Why?

God created our avenues of creativity did He not? That is -- the many different forms of creative expression and the source of our creative output (our inner selves). If He designed us to create by using this standard don't you think it's because He creates in this manner? Indeed, I feel we can plainly see the characteristics of God through the laws by which He set the universe in motion. (By the way, humans could never truly create anything original -- they only recreate varying forms of already existing patterns. Ex.: if you were to think of, say, some bizarre creature, all of its characteristics, such as color, have already been created. Only recreation is possible.)

How does all of this relate to God having a memory? Well, if we, like the rest of the universe, are created in His image, then the only real difference between God and us is in our present limitations. How is this limitation accomplished? I postulate that logic, emotion, memory (knowledge), and perception are all "one" in God, but in order to limit us for the moment, these things have been divided to become separate elements of our nature. This would in a sense "turn down" their power because the sum of the parts of the divided elements would not be as great as a combined whole. Their power is further reduced when they come into conflict with each other.

"We are, in essence, the manifestation of our Creator in an infinite number of ways." Yes, I'll agree with you on that point as well.

"God was tired of his 'perfect' reality, so He constructed the unpredictable arena of the universe." Here is where we differ in opinion.

To begin with, I cannot agree with you here because your statement is in conflict with itself. If God's reality was perfect, He wouldn't feel boredom. "Perfect," used in this context, means that He couldn't be any better -- He would have to be content in this state for it to be called a state of perfection. As part of the same point, you state that God had two forces in conflict -- the desire to change and the desire to remain the same. Here, you are saying He isn't perfect. (You can't have conflict in perfection.)

Continuing, you state that the resolution of this conflict came in the formation of the universe, continuity and change being the basic fabric. I agree that these are two of the ingredients that make the universe tick, but they aren't the only ones. In fact, I'd say that the amount can only be measured by infinity.

So what do I believe? Well, of all the theories and evidence I've seen so far (wouldn't be surprised if I changed my mind later), I feel that I can only throw up my hands and say that life is a game. A game played by us spirits. We dress ourselves up in these earth suits as part of the setting (you see, to have a game, you must limit yourself -- not letting yourself know certain things). A lot of people will balk at this. Maybe their life has been pretty hard and they're just not having that good of a time. I've just stepped on their feelings. Still, others believe that this is a battleground for good and evil forces. There's quite a bit of evidence against that -- so let me use this as an opportunity to segue into a scenario I'd like to put forth to anyone reading. It is intended to show a fundamental error of logic in belief of a hell or eternal damnation for our "wrongdoings."


Jeffrey is told that after he dies he will go to either one of two places -- place A or place B (all of this is supported by "evidence"). Now, place A is a place of eternal pleasure, (he has access to an unlimited supply of beer and chocolate ho-ho's), and place B is a place of eternal pain, (he must sit in his car at the intersection of Airport and Downtowner waiting for the light to change for all eternity) pick one lad!

Place A, Jeffrey -- I though you'd say that. I'll tell you everything you need to do to get to there.

Any sane person, like Jeffrey, would do all the things necessary to get to place A at every turn: you would have to be insane not to. Well, if someone cannot think rationally and is insane, they obviously aren't fit to make such a decision in the first place. Such a setup as this would be illogical.

One might say that people do act illogically, and they do. What causes this?

Well, it's the same thing that causes any animal to act irrationally -- a perceived threat to its survival. The threat comes in the form of physical pain or emotional loss (which makes one more vulnerable to the physical threat).

I could expand on this further, but let me summarize by saying that any irrational behavior is a subconscious and automatic reaction to a perceived threat to one's survival. This instinct was given to us by God; it wouldn't be logical for Him to condemn us by the same token.

Well, I'm sure to get replies like "You're just trying to find an excuse to get away with anything" or "You just got to have faith." Such responses are not solutions -- they are emotional reactions designed to make one stick by one's guns at the cost of open-mindedness and freedom of will. I am open to any logical response -- in defense of or otherwise.

Jake Fannin

Dear Dr. Salvo,

In your recent column there has been a surfeit of unmitigated rot about the Big Bang, Creation and a Creator.

I doubt if any rational person thinks there is a Creator or that there has been a Creation of any sort. How could there be? If God created the Cosmos, who created God? If God does not need a cause, why should Cosmos?

All the evidence points toward a Big Bang some 15-18 billions years ago when our Universe came into being via a fiery explosion. Only a brain-dead religious fundamentalist looks for a Creator behind the scene.

Immanuel Kant noted it was impossible to imagine an absolute beginning to space-time and he was 100 percent correct. The most likely scenario is that the Big Bang followed a Big Crunch. We can tell the Universe is expanding and has been since the BB. Astronomers are finding enough dark matter in space that will cause a collapse and a Big Crunch after the passage of time. The result points toward endless cycles of expansions and contractions, ad infinitum.

The Buddhists are not so inane and juvenile to think there has been a creation. For them the Cosmos has always been here and always shall be. The pre- Socratic Greeks felt likewise. If these brain-dead Christians would read Issac Asimov, Steven Weinberg and the scientific literature on the subject instead of reading crackpots such as Duane Gish and Josh McDowell and other loonies, perhaps they would gain some degree of enlightenment. Heraclitus solved the enigma some 2500 years ago when he asserted, "the Cosmos, the same for all, was not created by God or man, but always was, is and shall be."

Jesse Bailey
2149-B 16th Ave. S
Birmingham, AL 35205-5020
Tel: 205- 933-8435

P.S. Dr. Salvo, if you do not have a policy of not printing addresses: print mine. I welcome any comments.

Dear Salvo.

Your research assistant, Tim, probably understands all this already. Eastern Christianity (or as Tim might say, Eastern Shore Sanity) doesn't take the Fall quite so hard as we Westerners have tended to do. In a thought that goes back at least to Plato, it considers "image" to mean "reflection," and remembers that whenever you see reflection, the original has to be present close by, like a tree above a reflecting pool. So God is not far away because the Fall did not efface His image from humankind or the Creation. And if we pay close attention, we will notice this for ourselves and in ourselves. Western Christianity has been friendlier to that lamentable human readiness to consider ourselves worms, and to behave accordingly. By the way, I enjoyed Salvo's piece on Cosmology and Theology very much.

What you said in one of your letters about the difficulty in supposing that God takes a personal interest in you, or indeed in any single individual, seems to me exactly right: there lies the difficulty. It is a difficulty to professed Christians, too. One of my fellow parishioners said to me a while back, "Sure I believe in a God of love; I just don't really know how to be convinced He loves me." In a way the question is the same as "Why should God have created a world at all?" After all, we suppose that He wasn't lacking anything to begin with; why take an interest in anything but Himself? Or, if this sounds too anthropocentric, why is there a Many and not just a One? Why should there be individuals at all? Philosophers have mostly wanted to begin with the fact that there are, and somehow work back towards the claim that they are necessary, that in order for the One to be one, it must include the Many. Some, like Heidegger, have answered that there is no reason; that all existence is so radically contingent that there is no more reason for anything to be than not to be. But this is cloudy talk for me; contingency takes its meaning from necessity and vice versa, so a radical contingency which would do away with all necessity seems ipso facto unintelligible. The Big Bang didn't come out of nothing, we're told, but out of compact matter. Why was it so compact that it had to disperse? Why did it disperse the way it did? Does anything really ever happen for no reason at all? That's not the claim of Chaos theory, Quantum Mechanics, or any other branch of human knowledge I am acquainted with, and such a claim would be in some danger of becoming self-refuting. For if things can happen for no reason at all, where is the authority of reason by which I am to be persuaded that this is the case? Maybe some people just know the truth and some don't, again for no reason at all? Remind me to talk about Raymond Smullyan later. So if anything has a reason, you and I were included in the Big Bang no less than the galaxies, suns, and the planets in their courses. That is, our individuality would be no less a matter of concern to the Supreme Being than the individuality of anything else that is. Now the Philosophers might still say that God is not concerned with any individuals in a personal way since God is not Himself a person, and that you and I might be small parts in a grand necessary scheme of things which as a whole deserves the name of God. And it might be so. Certainly I have read nobody who would undertake to demonstrate that God must be a person, and I am not trying to compel you to suppose He takes an interest in you, only to say some of why I believe He does. Somewhere in Plato's The Sophist, the Stranger from Elea (home of Parmenides, the teacher who said: All is One) asks, "Are we really to suppose that the very highest principles of all exist in a kind of eternal deaf and dumb state, in stony impassive majesty, neither knowing, nor in any sense being aware? What would be so grand about that? I have more to say, but I want to mail this, and I feel my obligations catching up on me.


Dear Cary,

Your argument about the Big Bang including me along with the Crab Nebula is very persuasive. In fact, it is the strongest reasoning I have seen on the subject, and I think it answers the other letters in this issue. Don't forget Raymond Smullyan. Thanks for the good letters!


The Harbinger