by Glenn C. Wood
(September 21, 2014, Revised Sept. 29. 2014)



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Today Karl Jaspers’ “Big Bang” views are most appropriate--in view of yesterday’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s  “Big Bang” remarks. Though he has no bully pulpit, Karl Jaspers can be thought of as the “father” of “protestant” reason.

Jaspers doesn’t use the phrase “Big Bang” when he considers ciphers of nature—in his book Philosophical Faith and Revelation (PFR).

But Jaspers does address the concept of a “primal explosion”:

Cosmic ciphers are not statements of fact. Where their peculiarly compelling evidence causes them to be treated as a total knowledge and thus, in fact, to be made tenets of faith, they become fetters. (PFR, Collins, 1967, p. 182)

Jaspers’ encompassing phenomenological-epistemic approach and evaluation of finite data--taken from infinite-immanent data--is challenging reading. It’s found in the chapter “Ciphers of Nature” (Ibid.). The reader will find “ad infinitum” used several times in a reasonable and transcendental way. That…way… shows his relevancy with post-modernity, which normally remembers the harmful limits of rationalism--thus avoiding the disturbance of observable data by corporeal ideas.   

There is this word of warning though for those with faith in centralized religious authoritative forces: Jaspers is small “p” protestant without a hint of high “C” catholicity. I think he would be as critical of religious uniforms--as was Max Weber of “brown shirts” during the history of the Nazi regime. Jaspers stands with and above the protestants Kant, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. However Jaspers is nonjudgmental toward individuals circumstantially caught within the religious systems. That said, please allow this observation:  

In the late 1920s, Georges Lemaître, a Danish priest (later made a high ecclesiastical dignitary, i.e., prelate, by Angela Giuseppe Roncalli 1960, a “Pope”) was identified with talk about cosmic origins. The phrase “Big Bang” was publicly used in 1949 and appeared in print in 1950.

It was Eugeni Maria Giuseppe Giovani Pacelli ("Pope Pius XII") that contributed to making the theory a tenet of faith by saying it was the best way to think about God’s creation—words to that effect. Although the priest objected to the official’s off-the-cuff sanction, he retained the clerical uniform. He remained faithful to the major premise in his vocation (a practicing Catholic’s vocation is primarily for Catholic propagation).

The disjointedness involved in the papal note and the priest’s notation was more apparent than real. But the ambiguity was unquestionably tolerated by accommodating verbalizations like the “non-overlapping magisterial” terms used by Stephen Jay Gould. Discussions remain about the overlapping, but the harm had already been done, i.e., the pop-jury had heard it.

So, Jaspers in 1962 (1967 English trans.), understanding how the meaninglessness of complexes can too easily be reduced to simple terms, considers the theory of a “primal explosion”.  Regarding the placement of “the origin of the universe at a time about five trillion years ago” he says:

What physicists will find when extrapolation takes them to the beginning of the world is not creation but another question, even if as yet they see no way to proceed. (Ibid. p 185-6)
In the space encompassing our cosmic images, the philosophical and revelational faith’s continuum can kick in and provide buoyancy and inspired reason for its re-emersion.

To unfetter faith: The source of the consciousness and conscience continuum is a process more than progress. Yesterday I heard a Mercedes commercial: “Decay is the opposite of evolution”. It’s obviously an effort to capitalize on the presumed acceptability and the implications of the “e” word that’s currently bombarding the public—even in the churches. It tends to verify the Fiat, i.e., that the word means that more recent developed brains will buy a Mercedes. 

Dialogue Section (10-23-2014)

Caleb Boone responded to my Webpage. (Caleb’s jurisprudent criminal-case contributions were valuable in the preparation of my logical rejoinder to the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. )

Caleb said: “I read the article carefully. I agree with Jaspers. It took trillions of years to create the earth. It surely took many more trillions of years to create the universe. God is limitless.”

Thanks, Caleb, for pointing out to me that some expanding needs to be done to make Jaspers less vulnerable to misinterpretation.

I understand that your expanding the time goes to a leaning toward the eternality of God rather than a pinpointed time-space support on shaky critical mass in a minimum of space. 

It is safer to speak of prehistory as “the unfathomable depths of time” (The Origin and Goal of History, 1965, Yale UP, 3rd printing, p.31)) and this keeps open the history of humankind. That’s important because:

The picture we form of history becomes a factor in our volition. The manner in which we think of history sets limits on our potentialities, or sustains us by its implications, or lures us away from our reality… The use of this knowledge for purposes of propaganda in the interests of a power amounts to a lie about history”. (Ibid.231)

I should have emphasized that Jaspers was critiquing the cosmic visualization not propounding it, nor promoting long or short origin-thinking regarding prehistory. He was pointing to a long process while speaking from this dust particle in the immense universe.

That the “universe” can be imagined to be reduced to something small enough to fit in a child’s hand (a conceptual oxymoron) seems to me to be what Jaspers meant when he said that myths can be remolded, that there can be “myth-creating after a new fashion, at the very moment when the myth as a whole was destroyed” (Ibid. p.3). That the mind (being subject to the predicament of a priori forms of time and space) can apprehend the universe with such certitude seems heretically gnostic.

So, it should be made clearer that Jaspers is referring to the “Big Bang” idea in this reference to five trillion years ago. It is in his most recent 1962 work (PFR above). In his 1949 The Origin and Goal of History he speaks about current measurements being no less than around 2000 million years (p. 30) in reference to the history of the earth. Beyond that gets us into the restraints put upon us in the presumption of a known or knowable origin. Jaspers is not agreeing with the cosmic explosion “extrapolation”, and I think this was Einstein’s position too—though it seems to me that there’s an effort at taking Einstein’s kind words to mean that he was assenting to the Prelate Lemaitre. It might be comparable to me saying that it was a compliment when Einstein said he could not understand Jaspers. I mean if Jaspers had had his physics-collar on Einstein might have been more reverent. 

So, my view is that Jaspers is careful not to identify with this definitive point in space and time for some psychopathological reasons:

A wholly destructive event necessitates thereafter the beginning of life and the eventual development of consciousness, and conjuring God. It empowers, with too much force, the entity that can extrapolate most verbally about measuring that time and space—thus conjuring origin in the garb of science. It leaves us with a designed space for, and a timely substitution for God by some too simple- or too-complex of any institution. There’s always something poised to leap into the space left by atheism.


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