Beyond Theism/What there is

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Physicists study the universe to understand how it behaves by carefully investigating what there is and how the universe works. What physicists have identified so far is the standard model of particle physics and the general theory of relativity. The standard model describes the elementary particles that make up the universe, along with three of the four fundamental forces of the universe. The general theory of relativity describes gravity, the fourth fundamental force.

It is remarkable but true that all that has ever been discovered in the universe consists of the particles and forces described in the standard model, along with gravity. Although there are many unsolved problems in physics, a well-understood subset of the standard model, called the “core theory” by Nobel Prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek[1], is known to be correct and is sufficient to fully explain all the substances and processes we experience in our everyday lives. Countless experiments conducted with the Large Hadron Collider, and elsewhere, have confirmed the standard model and failed to find any evidence of other interactions with the standard model. In short, the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely known.[2] We know that these elementary building blocks combined and rearranged over billions of years since the universe formed to create a fascinating expanse of astronomical objects throughout the universe and the diversity of life forms, materials, art forms, constructed objects, intellectual achievements, and social constructs on our earth.

The sun and the earth formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The formation of the earth, the on-going movement of the tectonic plates, and constant erosion formed the many geologic, hydrolic, and oceanographic features of the earth. These include mountains, canyons, rivers, lakes, and oceans along with deserts, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Daily rotation of the earth creates sunrise and sunset, and annual revolution of the earth around the sun creates seasonal changes in the weather. This motion, heating, and cooling stimulate complex movements of the atmosphere and oceans that create weather phenomenon, including snow storms, rain storms, thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and beautiful days.

Not long after the earth formed, life began and the naturally occurring process of biological evolution has been working ever since. All life forms, including bacteria, archaea, protozoa, chromista, plants, fungi, and animals emerged and evolved over billions of years. The sun bathes the earth in electromagnetic radiation that provides the energy to power all life forms primarily via photosynthesis.

The decomposition of buried dead organisms over millions of years created several materials we now use as fossil fuels, including coal, petroleum, and natural gas.

As evolution continued more complex life forms emerged and birds built nests, beavers built dams, other animals built other structures, and several learned to use tools.

Eventually homo sapiens built and used tools, created clothing, shelters, vessels, structures, and other objects. They harnessed fire, developed languages, and created art forms.

Our minds emerged from our nervous systems, and our consciousness emerged from our minds. Our minds and consciousness make us aware of many mental states. These mental states include pain, pleasure, subjective experiences, emotions, moods, boredom, excitement, confusion, believing, perceiving, dreaming, imagining, wishing, and hoping.

Our imagination and skills allow us to create many art forms, inventions, and various forms of intellectual property. Our curiosity led us to discover facts, create myths, and invent gods.

Our language and social structures allow us to create many social constructs by endowing certain brute facts with additional status. These social constructs include games, governments, laws, courts, money, committees, memberships, titles, awards, contracts, property ownership, land deeds, religions, marriage agreements, codes of ethics, bylaws, financial transactions, debt, taxation, national boundaries, treaties, corporations, officials, authorities, and even languages.

As far any anyone knows, that’s all there is. There is matter, energy, and the four forces described by the standard model and general relativity. There are astronomical objects, geology, and weather. There are lifeforms composed of matter, energy, and the four forces. There are mental states, art forms, inventions, human constructs, intellectual property, and social constructs. Those who claim more exists, such as supernatural phenomena, spirits, ghosts, fairies, angels, gods, or spells, bear the burden of providing evidence to prove their claims.

Align your worldview with reality to improve your sensemaking.

  1. Wilczek, Frank (July 12, 2016). A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design. pp. 448. ISBN 978-0143109365.  This argument is bolstered in the December 2, 2022 video "Quantum Field Theory and the Limits of Knowledge" by Sean Carroll.
  2. Carroll, Sean (May 16, 2017). The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. Dutton. pp. 480. ISBN 978-1101984253.  Chapter 22.