In one cosmology, the universe rests on the back of a turtle. In another, the one I prefer, it rests on forgiveness. How else could quarks and leptons be so closely bound? How else could atoms combine to form compounds? How else could people, even you and I, abide in unity? Is there any limit to forgiveness? No, it’s forgiveness all the way down.
(Photo of turtles in a classroom at St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middletown, Delaware.)
I first studied cosmology at the Mid-Penisula Free University in Palo Alto in the late 1960s. Later, and often, I came across an anecdote about cosmology, infinite regression, and turtles. Wikipedia has a good article about Turtles All The Way Down, connecting the anecdote to the Bertrand Russell, William James, Joseph Frederick Berg, David Hume, and a Hindu creation story.
Serendipitously, the Rev. Emily Gibson preached about cosmology on 11/22/2015, the same Sunday I wrote the top paragraph here. Her point, like mine, is that cosmologies can be based on something other than the whimsical terms physicists use to describe the basic forces at work in the universe, terms like color, charm, and strangeness. I like to think that forgiveness is a basic force at work in the universe. I do not claim this preferred cosmology is scientific. How would you measure the forgiveness coefficient of an oxygen/double hydrogen molecule? No, I don’t want it taught as science, but everyone needs to learn to forgive. I certainly do!
Biographical Note: I was awarded a work scholarship after graduating from high school, allowing me to work summers as a Physics Trainee at the Navy Electronics Lab in San Diego while I pursued a degree in Physics. That scholarship required me to take a year off from school to work. Happily, I was sent to the Electrical Engineering Department of Stanford University, where I used mainframe computers to model algorithm behavior of adaptive arrays. The Mid-Peninsula Free University was the Counter-Culture’s answer to Stanford’s high tuition and restricted access. Thirty miles to the north, San Francisco was basking in its Summer of Love. In 1969, I finished my bachelor’s degree in Physics at the University of California San Diego, then went on to study Philosophy of Science in graduate school at the University of Texas. All this is a way of saying I used to know a lot about physics and philosophy.