Thursday, August 08, 2013
Vatican ideas about procreation and "generativity" are just the tip of a "cosmological" iceberg
Is reproduction a moral responsibility? Some people see “generativity”, the idea that one should not be able to leave this world and consume its resources, and leave it plundered for future generations, a deep moral problem. Maybe older generations got this, but not the "me generation" of the past four decades or so. But this sort of moral raft seems to be drifting toward us. (Just don't listen to any operas by Hans Werner Henze.)
And the evidence increases that more “middle class” families have only one child or sometimes no children, as the population ages, as in this report on the NBC Today show Thursday, link.
As for the theology, of the cosmology, it gets interesting. I’ve written before that consciousness seems to be a component of the universe, particularly any “free will agent” -- a human being, or a highly evolved animal. (When a mother leopard nurses a baby of another species in the wild, that’s free will.) Roman Catholic theology supposes that a free will comes into being when a child is conceived, and it gradually develops with growth through childhood into adulthood. (See review of Doug Hofsatdter’s “I Am a Strange Loop”, June 1, 2013, on the Books blog.)
A universe could conceivably have temporary or permanent limits on the count of “free will” agents. If at some point, a population does not grow too rapidly, then “old souls” of the “dead” could be reincarnated continuously. The numbers could be modeled mathematically. (Make it a calculus test problem.) Is there any reason that a person could not assimilate the “consciousness” of someone else through some kind of transference? I don’t think that the laws of physics would prevent this sort of scenario (like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and its many remakes). Theoretically, the total number of active “soul hosts” could contract.
Every single one of us, as far as we know, face the end of life as we know it, and no one has been able to prevent the biological aging due to entropy. (That includes Jesus if, as novelist Dan Brown claims, he married and fathered children and lived to a ripe old age after all.) You could say that in moral terms, life and reproduction are the natural answer to entropy, and tend to keep the universe going.
But if a “free will” agent is a component of the universe (or of the set of universes), then it cannot be destroyed at “death”, and some sort of eternal life is inevitable. My guess is that it could reincarnate on other planets, maybe on other universes. Maybe not all planets can populate many “new souls”. Maybe other planets house a lot of our “old souls”, maybe a close as the Gliese system. All of this sounds like good material for screenplays (and not just for Star Trek sequels).
Picture, Wikipedia link, artist’s idea of a sunset on a Gliese 667 habitable planet. But that means it isn’t tidally locked. Many planets round red dwarf stars will be tidally locked, with a mild climate in the “twilight” zone, literally. Many could have their “twilight zones” colonized. There are reasons to think that photosynthesis on some planets produces plants with blue or violet or invisible colors. (They might have a “black and white movie” look.) Below, Triton, moon of Neptune (ORNL and Energy Museum, TN.)