2001 and G-d: Introduction
By Barry Krusch (July 11, 1998)
There are many people who, after having watched 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, conclude that Stanley Kubrick was an atheist. And there are many others who, after also having watched the film, conclude otherwise. The following are two essays written from the latter point of view. More specifically, these writers see in 2001 a distinctly Jewish interpretation of the universe.
I've been thinking about 2001 for a long time, and I'm starting to come to the same conclusion. There are several clues pointing in this direction (e.g. lead astronaut named "David", subtle Garden of Eden and other Biblical references, and so forth.). However, not all the clues are obvious. For example, one big fat whopping clue is in the name of the computer that runs the ship Discovery, which is
H A L
Now, many people see in this name a "hidden message", specifically, IBM. This has been known for a long time. However, there is a more subtle connection to the name, at a deeper level. Those who been trained in Judaism can probably spot it with a little thought. But if you haven't been trained in Judaism, the connection obviously isn't going to jump out at you, since some knowledge of Hebrew is involved. Here's the Hebrew word which connects with HAL (Hebrew is read from left to right). Note the reversal of the colors:
Yes, there's a connection here, but what does it mean? That's part of the mystery. Kubrick seems to be saying that to get the full message of his film, you need to refer to other texts which will provide the necessary illumination. Knowledge of the meaning of this Hebrew word is essential for deciphering any possible connection.
In this vein, here are the two essays.
2001: A Space God-esy
by Mark Midbon
Thirty years ago Stanley Kubrick argued for peace in "2001: A Space Odyssey." At that time his greatest concern was the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. But his use of imagery from the Hebrew scriptures and Jewish liturgy makes his movie timeless.
When the movie is re-released to theaters in 1998 to celebrate its 30th anniversary, Kubrick's use of Jewish imagery will make the film just as relevant to issues of war and peace as it was in 1968.
Stanley Kubrick did not expect to argue for peace or use religious symbolism when he began working on this movie in 1964. By making a contract with science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, he expected to escape from the cares of the earth by soaring into outer space.
But two circumstances blocked his escape. The first circumstance was FOBS, the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System. This senseless scheme for putting hydrogen bombs in orbit found champions in the US House and Senate during the mid-1960s. Outer space was no longer a place to escape earthly cares.
The second circumstance that ruined science fiction as a means of escapism was unexpected things that Arthur C. Clarke put into the story that he wrote for Kubrick: two plugs for atheism and a dig at rival author Isaac Asimov.
Kubrick might have expected these things of Clarke if the two men had known each other better. But, as it was, Kubrick was probably unaware of the Clarke/Asimov War, the feud between the two great science fiction writers that was fueled by the fact that Arthur C. Clarke was an atheist and Isaac Asimov was a Jew.
Clarke wrote a story called "Journey Beyond the Stars." It was arranged in four parts:
1. Clindar the alien visits earth 3 million years ago to study and teach the primate ancestors of the human race. On his way home he leaves a pyramid on the moon.
2. In modern times, astronauts exploring the moon find the pyramid, which sends a radio beacon toward Jupiter.
3. The earth sends a mission to Jupiter.
4. The astronauts meet Clindar, who still remembers his visit with their primate ancestors.
The first and fourth parts ended with atheist soliloquies by Clindar the alien (pp. 75, 198). The second part poked fun at Isaac Asimov (pp. 84-85).
Without telling him why, Kubrick ordered Clarke to change the story. Sometimes Kubrick provided the changes, but sometimes he just made Clarke rewrite and rewrite until the results were acceptable. The process drove Clarke into melancholy when he thought of the hundreds of pages of material that Kubrick had discarded. That is why - when Clarke later published the discarded chapters with related entries from his diary - he called the book "The Lost Worlds of 2001" (New American Library, 1972).
Here, by way of example, are three of these changes.
Besides changes to the story, Kubrick also made a big change to his face. All his life he had been clean-shaven. But while he was struggling with Clarke on "2001" he grew a full beard, giving himself that rabbinical look which has been part of his image ever since.
Why did Kubrick choose monoliths to replace Clarke's pyramid? Monoliths were centers of worship for the ancient Canaanites and Israelites until the reign of Solomon. The Hebrew word for such a stone is "massebah" (literally "something stationed"). English translations of the Bible usually render the word as "pillar."
Genesis 28:12 describes the origin of the monolith near Bethel. Jacob dreams of a ladder to heaven with angels going up and down. When he awakens he declares the place to be the door of heaven and he raises a monolith. For this reason the monolith in "2001" looks like a door when seen from a distance. But when seen from up close, looking from the ground toward the top, the monolith resembles a ladder.
Monoliths like Jacob's ladder - called gates and doors because of their shape - feature prominently in the 24th Psalm. In fact "2001" can be seen as a meditation on the 24th Psalm. The first two verses of the Psalm are about the creation. Verses 3-5 are about the ascent to God of one who is virtuous. Verse 4 describes the virtuous one as not giving into "shav" (desolation, waste), and this calls to mind how the hero of "2001" survives the vacuum of space when the ship's computer locks him out of the ship.
But these changes baffled Arthur C. Clarke. On November 18, 1965, he took a break from writing and went to a movie, "The Agony and the Ecstasy." In the very middle of the movie, the main character began quoting from the first chapter of Genesis about the sixth day of creation. When Clarke heard him say, "God created man in his own image," Clarke realized that this was the new theme of the movie he was writing. (p. 39)
Clarke's realization was on target. One theme of "2001" is that we are still in the sixth day of creation. Not until the final scene of the movie is the creation of man complete. And Clarke recognized the breaking of the wineglass in part four of the movie as an allusion to Jewish liturgy.
Now that Clarke understood what Kubrick was doing, he fought back. He crafted the novel of "2001" so that it paralleled the movie but contradicted its religious message. Whereas Kubrick's movie portrayed the extraterrestrial force as all-knowing and godlike, Clarke's novel portrayed this force as sometimes misunderstanding earthlings and making mistakes.
Kubrick objected in writing to many parts of the novel, but Clarke arranged for it to be published by Delacorte in the summer of 1966 (pages 48-49). Then Kubrick blocked the publication for two years so that the public could not read the novel until after the movie was released.
This essay has discussed the religious meaning of the monoliths. Of course there is more to these objects. Their appearance in the film is not crude and primitive but smooth and straight, suggesting that they have been made with precision machinery.
Kubrick used the term "monolith" not only as used by archaeologists but also as used by electrical engineers. You can read about this side of the movie by going to my essay Creation Machines.
(And you can write to me, Mark Midbon.)
And now for an interruption by Barry Krusch:
An excellent essay. It actually supplies the body of a joke for which I'd had the punch line (for over three years). And along comes Midbon's essay which supplies the missing piece. How fortuitous!
Now for the punch line -- if you analyze Stanley Kubrick's name carefully, you can find in it a hidden message which reveals the essential content of the previous essay -- and in fourteen letters, no less! Let's analyze the name now:
We start off with the name:
Okay, let's rearrange the letters and see if we can find the hidden message. Let's start off with the letters "y" and "b".
We'll pull them out of the name, and rearrange them, to get the word "by", which gives us
Now let's pull out the letters "a", "l", "e", "r", "c", and "k".
We'll rearrange them too, and then lo and behold we get "Clarke"! We'll put that word in its proper place, which gives us
Just a few more letters. Let's take out the "t"and "i".
This is easy to rearrange: "it". Now we have
By Clarke It
We rearrange these final letters, easy enough, put the word in its place, and we get
By Clarke It Sunk
All that's missing is the exclamation point.
Now let's go to the second essay.
THE "2001" PRINCIPLE
THE FOLLOWING IS A TEXT-ONLY PRINT-OUT OF OUR WEBSITE AND MENU. WHEN YOU HAVE THE TIME, WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND VIEWING THE ORIGINAL, AS WE HAVE PUT GREAT EFFORT INTO MAKING ITS ABSTRACT PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPTS TANGIBLY REAL WITH ORIGINAL ANIMATIONS AS WELL AS HIGH RESOLUTION COLOR STILLS FROM THE FILM "2001 - A SPACE ODYSSEY".
Greetings! If you are like us, you are a fan of "2001 - A Space Odyssey." We liked it so much, we wrote a book about it. Some of our ideas are presented here in celebration of HAL's birthday at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Sit back, relax and enjoy. This is not an overly long presentation. We therefore suggest you view it in sequence, since it presents a logical argument, wherein each section is based on the one preceding it:
1. THE MYSTERY OF "2001"
2. "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY" - ILLUSTRATED PLOT SUMMARY
3. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE - VONNEGUT'S "BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS"
4. THE "THRESHOLD FOR DESIGN"
5. THE "FINE-TUNING" OF THE UNIVERSE
6. "2001" AS AN ARTFORM
THE MYSTERY OF "2001"
In the annals of motion picture history, the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" holds a special place. Watching the film, the viewer feels that he is being treated to nothing less than a encapsulated tale of human civilization, from Day One to the present, and even into the future. The film is panoramic, and of epic proportions. The music is breathtaking, and the plot follows a spaceship that crosses the universe, searching for the source of life itself.
Millions of people have seen this film, and though "2001" is outwardly science fiction, every viewer senses an important message. Something is being said about life, the universe, and reality in general, and the message seems to be one of enormous consequence. What is actually being said, however, is strangely elusive.
In the 1960's, when "2001" came out, it left its audiences so awestruck, so mystified, and so curious, most who went to see it once, went back to see it again and again, hoping that they would be able to decipher it.
The primary mystery is the film's ending. Dave, the sole survivor of HAL's homicidal rampage, has been whisked across the universe, to an undefined place. In a small, stylishly furnished room, we see him grow old and ancient in a time-lapse sequence, until he appears on his own deathbed, incredibly withered. In the last moments of his life, he finds the strength to pull himself up and point to an object which has suddenly appeared in the room. It is the enigmatic black "monolith" which initiated the entire space odyssey. Then, just as suddenly, a huge human embryo appears on the screen floating in outer space. Wide eyed, it turns to the viewing audience, and to the triumphant tones of "Thus Spoke Zarathrusta," the film ends. There is no explanation, the film just ends.
Let us try to crack this riddle. We shall see, in fact, that "2001" does contain a message about reality -- one of ultimate importance for every human being.
"2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY"
The film begins with about a half hour of footage featuring a troupe of apes living by a water hole. The place: "Earth." The time: "The Dawn of Man."
The troupe of apes is attacked by a second troupe and driven away from its water hole. In exile, the first troupe is awakened early one morning to the eerie sounds being generated by a mysterious object -- a black metallic slab. It is about 15 feet tall, and shaped like a huge domino. Its smooth metallic surfaces and perfect right angles are totally out of place and incongruent with the pristine beauty of a world untouched by man-made objects. It is immediately obvious to the viewer that the black geometric form originates from an intelligence which dwarfs that of the apes. With great fear and trepidation, the apes eventually work up the courage to approach the slab. They lay their hands on its "wondrous" features -- its smooth polished surfaces. This is their first encounter with "high" technology. The scene is accompanied by loud music and eerie human-like voices in the background. Suddenly, the scene switches.
It is the next day. The leader of the exiled troupe is sitting on his haunches, playing idly with the dried up bones of the skeleton of an ox. Seemingly, yesterday's encounter with the slab has given the leader a jolt forward, increasing his intelligence, for while playing with one of the bones, he discovers that a large bone can be used to break smaller bones. Longing for the water hole that was once his home, the troupe leader gathers up several large bones from the ox's skeleton, and gives them to the other male members of his troupe. Armed with this new, sophisticated weaponry, the apes easily retake the water hole, in a quick and bloody battle. Afterwards, the leader of the troupe triumphantly tosses his ox bone high into the air, and in what has been called "the greatest fast-forward in movie history" the swirling bone comes down as a spaceship, implying that the apes have evolved into man.
Since that first technological advance, at the battle for the water hole, mankind has evolved considerably, and civilization on Earth has made great technological progress. The United States has built a colony on the moon, and scientists digging there find what looks to be the same slab that the apes found! At this point, there is no reason for the scientists to assume that the slab is anything more than an inert building block. What they do know is that it has been on the moon for four million years, precluding the possibility that any human being put it there. The inevitable conclusion, as stated in the film, is as follows:
"THIS IS THE FIRST EVIDENCE OF INTELLIGENT LIFE OFF THE EARTH."
In other words, it is the first objective evidence that the universe contains intelligent life other than man.
The momentous discovery of the geometric slab is kept secret, for the Americans fear that if Earth's inhabitants learned about it "without adequate preparation and conditioning," widespread "culture shock" and "social disorientation" would inevitably ensue.
The moon moves in its orbit. Sunlight hits the slab, perhaps for the first time in eons, causing it to emit a beam into outer space. A spaceship is built and a crew is assembled to follow the beam. There is hope that the Americans will discover the intelligence that is responsible for the slab and its beam.
The spaceship takes off, on an odyssey that will span the universe. One of the main characters in this part of the film is a computer which controls and monitors most of the ship's functions. This computer, named HAL, has a human personality. He even has a human voice. For some reason, HAL rebels and begins to kill all the astronauts who are accompanying him on the mission. He tries to murder his creators. Dave, the last surviving astronaut, escapes HAL's coolly-plotted machinations and manages to dismantle him. Dave then continues the odyssey alone. In the end, Dave is captured in an inter-galactic net, apparently by the makers of the slab. We find him facing himself as an old man, sitting in a room on the other side of the universe. No explanations are given. The huge embryo comes on the screen, and the film ends.
To crack this riddle, one needs to understand an elementary principle about human psychology: A person's wants and desires influence more than his behavior. They influence his thinking, as well, and even his powers of perception. This is true even with regard to things that would be otherwise intuitively obvious. Psychologists say that when a person is confronted by ideas or facts that are at odds with his pre-existing notions, what results is "cognitive dissonance," a sort of static in the human psyche. This "static" has the power to distort or even block perception.
An extreme example of this is described by psychiatrist Rollo May in his best-selling book, Love and Will: "A patient of mine presented data the very first session, that his mother tried to abort him before he was born, that she then gave him over to an old-maid aunt to raise him for the first two years of his life, after which she left him in an orphan's home, promising to visit him every Sunday, but rarely putting in an appearance. Now, if I were to say to him -- being naive enough to think that it would do some good -- 'Your mother hated you,' he would hear the words but they might well have no meaning whatever for him. Sometimes a vivid and impressive thing happens. Such a patient cannot even hear the word, such as 'hate,' even though the therapist repeats it... The patient cannot permit himself to perceive the trauma, until he is ready to take a stand toward it." [emphasis ours]
When disturbing information creates "cognitive dissonance," the "static" discredits the information, so that a person does not feel compelled to cope with it, even if it is true. If a fact or idea is sufficiently contrary to his or her "status quo," the threatening data can be prevented from entering their consciousness at all! In effect, "cognitive dissonance" is a tremendously powerful "self-preservation" mechanism which can completely override the human desire for truth.
In "2001" there is a certain idea that can create very intense "cognitive dissonance," even in people who are very well-adjusted and highly intelligent. That is, what the film says about the discovery of the monolithic slab can actually be said of the film itself:
THERE IS SOMETHING IN "2001" THAT CAN CAUSE "WIDESPREAD SHOCK AND SOCIAL DISORIENTATION."
What, in fact, is it about "2001" that can jolt a person so powerfully?
Man is an intelligent, expressive and creative force in the universe. He realizes this, and is proud of it. This being the case, if there were indications that, really, his entire existence is an expression of a higher intelligence, he would be greatly shaken. Such a notion would be "belittling" to him. Moreover, if this notion is correct, it would require him to make major adjustments in terms of how he views himself and the world around him. Accordingly, such indications would be very threatening, and would trigger great amounts of dissonance in him.
From popular literature we can gain a feeling for just how much trauma might be involved. In Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, the author decides to "go down" into the pages of his book, in order to meet his favorite character. At this point in the book, the favorite character is sitting at a bar, calmly nursing a drink. Suddenly he is overcome by a tremendous feeling of anxiety and apprehension. He senses that something is about to enter the room -- something not only awesome, but also something that he "cannot possibly face." That something is the author -- Vonnegut.
Imagine the scene. There sits the favorite character, content with the idea that he is, in fact, a real human being. To say the least, his encountering his creator would occasion a profound crisis in identity. Finding out that he is nothing more than a character in a story would force him to make major adjustments in his way of thinking. Can you appreciate the potential for trauma here?
Due to "cognitive dissonance," if a person is asked if a certain idea is true, and his response is, "I don't know," it may not be the case that "sufficient evidence" is lacking. His "I don't know" may be of the "cognitive dissonance" variety. In sum, his doubt can be categorized as being of two possible types:
TYPE I, THE LOGICAL "I DON'T KNOW," is based on logic and reason. For example, before probes landed on Mars and sent back reports, if a scientist had been asked if Mars had life on it, he would have answered simply, "I don't know." The basis for his answer was purely rational. He lacked information. Before the probes scientists had no conclusive proof about whether there was life on Mars. Possibly there was life there, but how could anyone know?
TYPE II, THE EMOTIONAL "I DON'T KNOW," is completely divorced from logic and reason. Doubt here is not based on a lack of evidence or a shortage of information. On the contrary, the evidence here is compelling, but doubt springs from a powerful and subconscious "I can't take it." Examples of this type abound, especially in the history of science where sufficient evidence existed to support new, revolutionary discoveries, but scientists could not accept the evidence, and remained skeptical, for the new findings flew in the face of their views. "Cognitive dissonance," the phenomenon that creates this type of doubt, can provoke bizarre thinking even in those who are noted for logic and reason.
The film "2001: A Space Odyssey" contains a subtle message about probably the most important "I don't know" that issues forth from the lips of man. Man asks, "Is there a God?"
On this crucial question, if a person replies, "I don't know," is it Type I or Type II? Is it because there is simply not enough evidence to prove that God exists? Or is it because what ordinarily would qualify as conclusive proof is available, but for certain reasons (e.g. The "Vonnegut Problem"), one cannot accept it? This question touches on the subject of religion, but only peripherally. Really, we are asking here about the human psyche: What goes on in the human mind when a person grapples with the issue of God?
Let us simplify the question by narrowing it down a bit. The best-known argument for the existence of God is the classical "clock in the desert" argument, also known as the "Argument From Design." We know that this argument is not regarded as being convincing. The question, though, is why not?
When an agnostic hears this argument eloquently expressed, with the most astounding examples of nature's grand designs, he usually admits that the level of design in nature is impressive -- yet he remains skeptical. The prevailing opinion is that his doubt is a Type I doubt -- doubt which is due to insufficient evidence. Is this really the case? Perhaps the Argument From Design really DOES provide sufficient evidence for God, and people reject it, or remain in doubt about it, only because of "cognitive dissonance," and the widespread doubt here is really a Type II -- due partly to the difficulty that a person experiences adjusting to the idea that he is an expression of a higher intelligence.
THE "THRESHOLD FOR DESIGN"
In order to discover which of the two possibilities mentioned above is correct, we will need to perform a scientific experiment which reveals what level of design prompts people to react intuitively, "This did not happen by chance." That is, we will need to expose people to different levels of design until we determine what level prompts all of them to say, "This is a product of intelligence." We will call this level of complexity the "threshold for design."
To discover the threshold, we will have to set up a situation which eliminates the potential for "cognitive dissonance" arising. We will need an experimental setting where levels of design are present, and our subjects are under no personal, social, intellectual, metaphysical or other pressures which could prevent their perception of the design. In other words, we will need a controlled environment -- a situation which lacks the factors which could interfere with the normal functioning of man's intuitive faculty.
Fortunately, a quality experiment which establishes the level of complexity which brings the intuitive reaction, "Designer required" already has been done. The controlled environment was the everyday movie theater, and the subjects of the experiment were the millions who saw the film "2001."
THE THRESHOLD: THE "2001" MONOLITH
As we noted in our summary of the film, the discovery of the black monolith was recognized as
"THE FIRST EVIDENCE OF INTELLIGENT LIFE OFF THE EARTH."
that is to say, the first objective evidence that the universe contains intelligent life other than man.
Please note that not one character in the film objected to this statement. Neither did any film critic take issue. Most importantly, based on all available information, no objections were raised by anyone in any movie theater either. The people in the theaters "agreed" not because they were watching fantasy, and would agree to anything. "2001" was taken very seriously. Viewers were looking at the film critically, and they realized that if such a momentous discovery were to be made under identical conditions in real life, any qualified scientist inevitably would reach the same conclusion. In the theater, eating popcorn, free of personal, social, intellectual and other biases, people agreed unanimously that a black slab with smooth surfaces and a few right angles was conclusive proof of intelligence, for the intelligence that was implied was not God.
In other words, the idea of intelligent life on other planets, superior as that intelligence may be, is not nearly as threatening to man as the idea of God, for the existence of an extra-terrestrial intelligence does not necessarily imply the "dependent-beholden" complex that we encountered in Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. When viewers heard it said that the monolith was proof of "intelligence other than man," everyone agreed, because cognitive dissonance was absent. Not one viewer maintained, "Maybe it just happened."
Everyone had the same immediate "gut" reaction. There was no doubt whatsoever. In that "2001" was viewed by millions of people from all walks of life, it cannot be argued that too few people were "tested," or that the subjects of the "experiment" were not representative.
Therefore, what level of complexity does it take for people to see intuitively that something was made purposefully? Does it take a computer found on the moon? An automobile? A wristwatch? No, even a domino-shaped slab is enough! In short, "2001" serves as a controlled, scientific experiment which establishes man's intuitive "threshold" for design. In the movie theater, where there are no implications for one's life, and the intelligence which is the source of the design is not Divine, this "threshold" level is quite low.
THE COSMIC IRONY OF THE "2001" EMBRYO - "THE 2001 PRINCIPLE"
Now, compared to the level of design exhibited by the slab, the level of design found in objects in nature is infinitely higher. Take the design of 2001's HUMAN EMBRYO. The human embryo represents probably the highest level of structural complexity in existence -- a level at the OPPOSITE end of the spectrum compared to the level of design present in a domino-shaped slab!
The question, then, is: Why is it that, while watching the movie, millions of people agree that the low level of design exhibited by this slab could not have come about without the intervention of intelligence, but when these same people leave the movie theater, and encounter MUCH HIGHER design in nature, the conclusion is otherwise?
2001's DRAWING POWER
When the film ended, and the embryo filled the screen, it was as if the embryo was saying to the audience, "Hey folks, aren't I much more complex than the domino-shaped slab? If you see that intelligence had to have made the slab, why don't you see that intelligence had to have made me?" Ironic, no? This irony is the basis of this classic film's drawing power. People perceived this message subliminally, but not consciously, because the IMPLICATIONS of the message were too far-reaching. Even though "2001" outwardly was only science fiction, the embryo at the film's end had a real message of ultimate importance for all.
True, at the end of the film, when the embryo filled the screen, the makers of the film probably had in mind only science fiction -- to show the viewers the next intermediary step in man's "evolutionary odyssey." Nevertheless, viewers subconsciously sensed another real and important message here. Seeing the embryo, they felt torn between the science fiction aspect of the film and the statement of "cosmic irony" it implied.
And once people started getting the idea, stronger and stronger indications of this cosmic irony started popping up everywhere. Almost as if he had "2001" in mind, one microbiologist wrote in 1985:
"It is the sheer universality of perfection, the fact that everywhere we look, to whatever depth we look, we find an elegance and ingenuity of an absolutely transcending quality, which so mitigates against the idea of chance. Is it really credible that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest element of which -- a functional protein or gene -- is complex beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very antithesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man? Alongside the level of ingenuity and complexity exhibited by the molecular machinery of life, even our most advanced artifacts appear clumsy. We feel humbled, as Neolithic man would in the presence of 20th century technology..." (Michael Denton, Evolution -- A Theory in Crisis, p. 328).
In short, it is fair to say that simply on the basis of design found in objects in nature that
WERE IT NOT FOR "COGNITIVE DISSONANCE" GOD'S EXISTENCE SHOULD BE INTUITIVELY OBVIOUS.
Professor John Wheeler, former Chair of the Physics Department at the University of Texas at Austin, formerly a colleague of Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr, and considered one of the foremost contemporary thinkers in theoretical physics and cosmology, had this to say (from a PBS science documentary, "The Creation of The Universe"):
"To my mind, there must be at the bottom of it all, not an utterly simple equation, but an utterly simple IDEA. And to me that idea, when we finally discover it, will be so compelling, and so inevitable, so beautiful, we will all say to each other, 'How could it have ever been otherwise?'"
THE "FINE-TUNING" OF THE UNIVERSE
According to growing numbers of scientists, the laws and constants of nature are so "finely-tuned," and so many "coincidences" have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence. In fact, this "fine-tuning" is so pronounced, and the "coincidences" are so numerous, many scientists have come to espouse "The Anthropic Principle," which contends that the universe was brought into existence intentionally for the sake of producing mankind. Even those who do not accept The Anthropic Principle admit to the "fine-tuning" and conclude that the universe is "too contrived" to be a chance event.
In a BBC science documentary "The Anthropic Principle," some of the greatest scientific minds of our day describe the recent findings which compel this conclusion.
Dr. Dennis Scania, the distinguished head of Cambridge University Observatories: "If you change a little bit the laws of nature, or you change a little bit the constants of nature -- like the charge on the electron -- then the way the universe develops is so changed, it is very likely that intelligent life would not have been able to develop."
Dr. David D. Deutsch, Institute of Mathematics, Oxford University: "If we nudge one of these constants just a few percent in one direction, stars burn out within a million years of their formation, and there is no time for evolution. If we nudge it a few percent in the other direction, then no elements heavier than helium form. No carbon, no life. Not even any chemistry. No complexity at all."
Dr. Paul Davies, noted author and professor of theoretical physics at Newcastle University: "The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural 'constants' were off even slightly. You see," Davies adds, "even if you dismiss man as a chance happening, the fact remains that the universe seems unreasonably suited to the existence of life -- almost contrived -- you might say a 'put-up job.'"
According to the latest scientific thinking, the matter of the universe originated in a huge explosion of energy called "The Big Bang." At first, the universe was only hydrogen and helium, which congealed into stars. Subsequently, all the other elements were manufactured inside the stars. The four most abundant elements in the universe are, in order, hydrogen, helium, oxygen and carbon. When Sir Fred Hoyle was researching how carbon came to be, in the "blast-furnaces" of the stars, his calculations indicated that it is very difficult to explain how the stars generated the necessary quantity of carbon upon which life on earth depends. Hoyle found that there were numerous "fortunate" one-time occurrences which seemed to indicate that purposeful "adjustments" had been made in the laws of physics and chemistry in order to produce the necessary carbon.
Hoyle sums up his findings as follows:
"A COMMON SENSE INTERPRETATION OF THE FACTS SUGGESTS THAT A SUPERINTENDENT HAS MONKEYED WITH THE PHYSICS, AS WELL AS CHEMISTRY AND BIOLOGY, AND THAT THERE ARE NO BLIND FORCES WORTH SPEAKING ABOUT IN NATURE. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT ANY PHYSICIST WHO EXAMINED THE EVIDENCE COULD FAIL TO DRAW THE INFERENCE THAT THE LAWS OF NUCLEAR PHYSICS HAVE BEEN DELIBERATELY DESIGNED WITH REGARD TO THE CONSEQUENCES THEY PRODUCE WITHIN STARS."
Adds Dr. David D. Deutsch: "If anyone claims not to be surprised by the special features that the universe has, he is hiding his head in the sand. These special features ARE surprising and unlikely."
UNIVERSAL ACCEPTANCE OF FINE-TUNING
Besides the BBC video, the scientific establishment's most prestigious journals, and its most famous physicists and cosmologists, have all gone on record as recognizing the objective truth of the fine-tuning.
The August '97 issue of "Science" (the most prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal in the United States) featured an article entitled "Science and G-d: A Warming Trend?" Here is an excerpt: "The fact that the universe exhibits many features that foster organic life -- such as precisely those physical constants that result in planets and long-lived stars -- also has led some scientists to speculate that some divine influence may be present."
In his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking (perhaps the world's most famous cosmologist) refers to the phenomenon as "remarkable." "The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers (i.e. the constants of physics) seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life" (p. 125).
We are thus not the first to reformulate the argument from design on the basis of the uniqueness of the values that we find in the constants.
"For example," Hawking writes, "if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would not have exploded... It seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers (for the constants) that would allow for development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets of values would give rise to universes that, although they might be very beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty." Hawking then goes on to say that he can appreciate taking this as possible evidence of "a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science (by G-d)" (ibid. p. 125).
Upon viewing our site, Dr. Gerald Shroeder, former professor of physics at M.I.T., wrote to us and had this to say. "As is, the site is excellent. Any additions I suggest here, are, as it were, merely fine-tuning. But let me give me two or three more major examples":
1. Nobel laureate, high energy physicist (a field of science that deals with the very early universe), Professor Steven Weinberg, in the journal Scientific American, reflects on "how surprising it is that the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe should allow for the existence of beings who could observe it. Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values." Although Weinberg is a self described agnostic, he cannot but be astounded by the extent of the fine-tuning. He goes on to describe how a beryllium isotope having the minuscule half life of 0.0000000000000001 seconds must find and absorb a helium nucleus in that split of time before decaying. This occurs only because of a totally unexpected, exquisitely precise, energy match between the two nuclei. If this did not occur there would be none of the heavier elements. No carbon, no nitrogen, no life. Our universe would be composed of hydrogen and helium. But this is not the end of Professor Weinberg's wonder at our well tuned universe. He continues: "One constant does seem to require an incredible fine-tuning... The existence of life of any kind seems to require a cancellation between different contributions to the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places."
This means that if the energies of the big bang were, in arbitrary units, not:
there would be no life of any sort in the entire universe because as Weinberg states: "the universe either would go through a complete cycle of expansion and contraction before life could arise or would expand so rapidly that no galaxies or stars could form."
2. Michael Turner, the widely quoted astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and Fermilab, describes the fine-tuning of the universe with a simile: "The precision is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bullseye one millimeter in diameter on the other side."
3. Roger Penrose, the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, discovers that the likelihood of the universe having usable energy (low entropy) at the creation is even more astounding, "namely, an accuracy of one part out of ten to the power of ten to the power of 123. This is an extraordinary figure. One could not possibly even write the number down in full, in our ordinary denary (power of ten) notation: it would be one followed by ten to the power of 123 successive zeros!" That is a million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion zeros. Penrose continues, "Even if we were to write a zero on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe -- and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure -- we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed. The precision needed to set the universe on its course is to be in no way inferior to all that extraordinary precision that we have already become accustomed to in the superb dynamical equations (Newton's, Maxwell's, Einstein's) which govern the behavior of things from moment to moment."
Cosmologists debate whether the space-time continuum is finite or infinite, bounded or unbounded. In all scenarios, the fine tuning remains the same. It is appropriate to complete this section on "fine-tuning" with the eloquent words of Professor John Wheeler, which we quoted earlier:
"To my mind, there must be at the bottom of it all, not an utterly simple equation, but an utterly simple IDEA. And to me that idea, when we finally discover it, will be so compelling, and so inevitable, so beautiful, we will all say to each other, 'How could it have ever been otherwise?'"
"2001" AS AN ART FORM
Great art has two qualities. 1) It is enduring, and 2) it has the uncanny quality to bear numerous levels of insight and interpretation. People often ask if Shakespeare, Dylan or the Beatles really had everything in mind that we read into their works. The question, however, is irrelevant as long as the insight is valid in its own right -- even if it turns out that we are just using the artform as a peg on which to hang an idea. That after all is what art is about.
"2001" fulfills both these conditions.
1) It is enduring. In the March 1997 issue of Yahoo Magazine, film critic Roger Ebert stated that "2001" was the greatest science fiction film ever made. Considering that this statement is being made 30 years after the film was produced, it shows that "2001" has enduring value. It is generally agreed that there is no comparison between "2001" and "2010." The zenith achieved in "2001" was never equaled.
"2001" has become part of our culture. The Newsweek Cyberscope add for Cyberfest in the Summer of '96 discussed "2001" under the title "Culture."
2) To see evidence of the plethora of interpretations that have been given to this film, see the "Comprehensive List of 2001 Websites," as well as the abundance of books and articles which have been written about the film since 1968.
On this note, it is interesting to compare Arthur C. Clarke's novel with the screenplay of "2001" that was written by Clarke and Kubrick. The novel, which preceded the screenplay, was classic science fiction with a very specific storyline. The film, on the other hand, left a lot unsaid; it was open-ended, wide open for interpretation. As stated in the booklet accompanying the Compact Disc of the film's soundtrack, "Kubrick and Clarke resisted the temptation to 'explain' the film's speculations about life, intelligence, and meaning. Like all of the greatest filmmakers, Kubrick insisted on letting his images do the work." That this gave the film a much higher level as an art form was the secret of its box-office success. Because it gave people exactly enough to make them wonder why they didn't understand it, they felt compelled to come back -- and they did.
In his book The Sleepwalkers, Arthur Koestler describes some of history's greatest geniuses whose epochal discoveries advanced scientific thinking even though they were largely oblivious of the magnitude of their discoveries. In this sense, Kubrick's "2001" provided a very powerful means of solving an old and important philosophical question though he may not have realized the significance of what he had provided.
We started off by saying that "2001" is an encapsulated story of human civilization. The last shot of the film represents not only the end of Dave's life, but the end of an Epoch, the time when Man will ask himself:
"What was it all about?"
At that moment the "2001" Starchild appears to give the answer. It is an answer filled with cosmic irony. An answer that asks another, rhetorical question. The "2001" Starchild asks: "The monolith was the first evidence of intelligence in the universe other than man. What about me?"
In other words, the Starchild is saying: By the year 2001, human civilization will have been around for many thousands of years. In all those thousands of years, why didn't anybody ever consider "me" -- the quintessential complexity inherent in the coming-into-being of every human being that has ever lived?
We would add that the way this statement is made is especially pointed. The Starchild turns wide-eyed, until it faces the viewing audience. It then calmly stares us right in the face. This is reminiscent of the way a great contemporary thinker described how we would view reality free of cognitive dissonance:
"Suppose a case of books filled with the most refined reason and exquisite beauty were found to be produced by nature; in this event it would be absurd to doubt that their original cause was anything short of intelligence. But every common biological organism is more intricately articulated, more astoundingly put together, that the most sublime literary composition... Despite all evasions, the ultimate agency of intelligence stares one in the face" (Frederick Ferre, Basic Modern Philosophy of Religion, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1967, p. 161).
"Despite all evasions, the ultimate agency of intelligence stares one in the face."
IF YOU LIKED "THE 2001 PRINCIPLE," YOU WILL WANT TO BUY THE BOOK IT IS BASED ON - "THE OBVIOUS PROOF" by Mordechai Steinman and Gershon Robinson (C.I.S. Publishers), E-MAIL TO <email@example.com.