With Orthodox Easter fast approaching, resurrection is on the brain. This reminded me of a Facebook note I wrote in April 2014. A meme was floating around at the time on Google+ with these inspiring words by Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist:
“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than the atoms in your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about the universe: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements (the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, all the things that matter for evolution) weren’t created at the beginning of time, they were created in stars. So forget Jesus. Stars died so you could live.”
Krauss’s persuasive sentiment embodies an anti-metaphysical triumphalism rather widespread nowadays, thanks to so-called New Atheism. But how non-metaphysical is this anti-metaphysicalism? Thankfully, not much. In fact, Krauss’s assertion is simply a physicalist statement of a metaphysical belief. It’s powerful, effective, because it uses concepts we believe nowadays drawn from science to address matters of a spiritual nature, the human need for belonging. It’s interesting, too, that it uses a traditional religious metaphor, in negative register, to communicate the same existential idea: that we owe our being to the death of another in whose form we are resurrected. I no more believe that this cancels the religious sentiment than creationist nonsense cancels evolutionary theory. In other words, in trying too hard to dismiss one set of metaphysical metaphors by another, it gives one pause regarding the dismissal itself. It’s been said that in the past were it not for theologians desperately trying to prove god’s existence it wouldn’t have occurred to anyone to doubt god’s existence. Today scientists and new “metaphysicians” may need to fear the obverse: in trying to deny god and religion, they are providing fodder for the revivification of their nemesis. I personally welcome the practice.
The person, a scientist himself, who posted the meme based on Krauss replied:
“It is the truth of reality and it doesn’t need religion.”
I couldn’t resist:
“It doesn’t need religion because it is a new form of ‘religion’. It argues for ‘the truth of reality’ with the same fervour and conviction as religious persons did in the past and, I suspect, with the emergence of new metaphors and discoveries, will continue in the future. I’m not sure why that’s a problem.”
To which the good scientist (closet metaphysician or theologian, if you will) replied:
“People will attempt to hijack anything but the reality is that the universe just wants you to learn, love, explore and live a happy life.”
Amen to that!