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Competing Cosmologies

David Cowles

Mar 7, 2023

“Cosmic phenomena may best be understood by overlaying several incompatible but complementary models.”

The Spring Issue (3/1/23) of Aletheia Today Magazine (ATM) included two articles: Two Faced God, an article on the cross-cultural notion of God as ‘Time Binder’, and Legos and Bells, an article on the cutting edge, non-local cosmology embedded in The Lego Movie

Both articles explored alternative ways of imagining the deep structure of Cosmos. We’ve all been brought up to believe that the Earth is a sphere, suspended in a space ‘full’ of stars, planets, moons and other celestial debris. Fits the data! Makes sense! But this model’s success need not come at the expense of complementary alternatives.

We are told that folks used to understand the Earth as a flat surface resting comfortably under a dome (the firmament), in much the same way as a poached fish might be served in a pretentiously expensive restaurant. We have been led to believe that the divergence of these two models is a fundamental ‘event’ in the intellectual history of the West. It isn’t! 

On the contrary, cosmic phenomena may best be understood by overlaying several incompatible but complementary models. In Two Faced Gods, for example, we explored the idea that the heavens and the earth may simply be alternate orientations on a single, non-orientable surface (a Möbius strip). 

Sidebar: This is apparently Dante’s dominant cosmological model. He presents Paradiso and Inferno as opposite orientations in a continuous but non-orientable Universe. This model turns the Lord’s Prayer (“on earth as it is in heaven”) into a cosmological fact. It also accounts for the alleged ‘sympathy’ of terrestrial and astral events (aka Astrology).   

Elaborations of this model include the idea of West World, Aran, Finisterre. When Columbus sailed west, he undoubtedly expected to find India; but what did the Vikings expect when they made the crossing many centuries earlier? 

Probably not India, maybe not even Newfoundland, perhaps the dwellings of the gods, possibly that point on the horizon when heaven and earth meet. Did they expect to sail into the sky? “Look, Ma, there’s daddy, right next to Orion.” We can’t say for sure.

Space is time and time is space: ‘that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know’. So, if you can’t afford to buy a ticket to Orion, or even to Newfoundland, no problem. You can just wait for the sun to set. 

According to William Butler Yeats, ‘on a clear day you can see forever’. Anyone can! Prince or pauper, you can experience the marriage of heaven and earth, thanks in no small measure to the seemingly endless subarctic twilights.

Analogy: The Incarnation took place once and for all at a single place and time. BTW, that terrestrial event had its own celestial counterpart: the Star of Bethlehem. Even more importantly, the Incarnation reoccurs every day in the celebration of the Eucharist. As a result, everyone may experience the Incarnation regardless of their location in spacetime…or their financial means.

A disturbing variation of the ‘flat earth’ model is the one most often attributed to the ancients, i.e. the idea that Earth has edges: “Eric, don’t wander too far from home or monsters will get you. And don’t sail too close to the edge, or you might fall off!” What parent, ancient or modern, has not occasionally resorted to exaggerated rhetoric to warn a cherished offspring about the dangers afoot in the wide, wide world? 

Bottom line: we can’t be sure whether educated adults ever actually believed that the world had edges; but we may assume that Eric’s mom’s final instructions to her explorer son went unheeded.   

Fast-forward to the 3rd millennium CE. Just when you thought the world had no more use for ‘flat earth’ cosmologies, along comes The Lego Group (Denmark), urging ‘kids (ages 8 to 14)’ to create their own universes…on a finite flat surface (i.e., with edges).

No idea is so bad that it can’t be resurrected, including the idea of an earth with edges. Also, no idea is so bad that it can’t be redeemed, and The Lego Movie (2014) does just that. Emmet, the hero of the movie, takes it for granted that his world is suspended in oblivion. He never questions the danger of stepping off the edge. 

But did I mention that Emmet is a hero? And what is courage but the determination to do what’s right even when there is no hope for a positive outcome? So Emmet risks almost certain annihilation to accomplish his ‘cosmic mission’, i.e., to save the world.

However, much to Emmet’s surprise, and ours, Legoland turns out not to be surrounded by oblivion but by a higher dimensional universe populated by large carbon-based organisms (the monsters of mythology?…aka people).  

The cosmology of Lego Land is indeed flat, but it is both ‘non-orientable’ and ‘entangled’. Events that occur in Legoland are correlated with separate events that occur in the higher dimensional universe that embeds it. 

As we discussed in Legos and Bells, Legoland and its higher dimensional counterpart constitute neither one world nor two. They constitute 1.4 (the square root of 2) worlds. Thus, they are neither total independent of one another (two worlds) nor total dependent on one another (one world). In the words of John Bell (1964), they are entangled.   

The fullest possible understanding of reality will not be achieved using any one model, but may be more closely approached with an overlay of multiple complementary models. The Standard Model of Cosmology must be supplemented by non-orientability and by entanglement.

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