The cosmo-evolutionary story of humanity is so lunatic-inducing you’d think there was a wizard at work, weaving and warping the cosmic embroidery. Instead, the cosmos is sculpting us into it’s very own wizards… So let us unroll the story of the earth-inhabitants that science and society have been painstakingly piecing together for centuries.
Humans are keen on stories. Especially stories about themselves. We find stories about us meaningful in part because they make us integral parts of a plot about the world… and we want, we need, to feel that integration. Religion, the meaning monarch, is for the most part a mosaic of stories. A fabricated framework, however, might be very aesthetic, but when it starts to fragment at intersection with truth-fringes, it’s not so optimal. There’s nothing fabricated about the human story I’m about to tell you.
A creation story this is not. There is no wicked physics-architect behind the curtain of the cosmos waving a wand into the workings of nature. Ah, but please don’t be disappointed. The universe is doing something much, much more fantastic – creating itself with nothing other than itself. Even more magnificently absurd – it used a nonexistence to sprout an existence, a vacuum to generate everything-ness. The cosmos manipulated non-time and non-space into time and space… Talk about constitutive absence!
It’s unbelievable, unfathomable, ludicrous to us. But we’re just animals weighed down by all of our biological needs, desires, and fatigues. We shouldn’t expect finite mammal minds to truly grasp how the laws of the universe molded nothingness into the all. We are not evolutionarily built to understand such towering cosmic endeavors. But we can try.
… How did the primordial void of the cosmos transform into trillions and trillions of solar systems? And how did we go from solar system to society? How did the patterned complexity on every level of existence—from spiraling galaxy and coiling DNA to shimmering peacock feather and swarms of geometric diatoms to the innumerable gods of the Ancient Egyptians and the technological web of cities that currently veils our globe—originate?
Remarkably, the inherent disposition behind a handful of elements gave the green light for the emergence of myriad designs of nature. Through a cosmic-evolutionary process, the atoms that formed in the Big Bang now reside in chambered nautilus seashells, in human brains, in laptop computers. A string of proliferating symmetry breakings has allowed the ornate order of nature to proliferate in time and to overpower the pile-up of disorder in the universe.
But that didn’t quite answer it… just how does this cosmic-evolutionary process do it all? How is it possible that we are experiencing this present instance on a stardust-particle-planet abound with teeming life, human civilization, and night’s cosmic window to it all? The fluctuant kaleidoscope of beautiful-being in life, humanity, and cosmos was born from the combined ramifications of many self-manifesting masterminds of nature; symmetry breaking, emergence, evolution, the three great phase transitions (of matter, life, and consciousness), spontaneous self-organization, contingency, the availability of free energy to flow through open systems, the fine-tuned parameters of the cosmos, and the tug-of-war between entropy and negentropy… Witnessing all these nature-geniuses operating in symbiosis, we suspect the prevalence of a looming cosmic aura indicating that there is a “deep, inner creativity woven into the very fabric of nature” that drives existence to its current heights of compounded splendor.
Ok, that’s some of the general “how” in how it’s even conceivable that I’m here typing this. Let us push on with the plot.
The cosmos began with a mere hive of buzzing photons and currently contains self-aware beings with brains firing billions of electrical pulses that are trying to crack the mystery case of the cosmos… Our goal here is to unravel the elevations of awe in that miracle.
The primordial cosmic morph from radiation to matter umbrellas the first great rung in the ladder of cosmic evolution and the first great phase transition of actuality. Photons from the Big Bang mingled to manufacture the very first matter in the cosmos in the form of electron-positron pairs. This tremendous cosmic stride emerged due to a symmetry-breaking, structure shift – the inhomogeneities in the early universe that transpired due to gravitational instability… In short, light remodeled itself into matter!
Huh. So, light, that resplendent dimension of reality that we are relentlessly interacting with, has the potential to bump itself up a level into matter?! Makes you wonder what consciousness is capable of bumping itself up to…
Space and time make some things more possible than others. So what is it about the physics of our universe that allows you to be here reading about my love of the cosmos? Let us ponder some of the crucial constants of physics that encase the core reason that you are conscious and breathing at this moment. If the force of gravity was a few magnitudes stronger—human skeletons would collapse and no creatures greater than a few inches tall could emerge. The quantity of nuclear efficiency, e—0.007—governs the longevity of stars, but if e was greater by 0.001 then no hydrogen would have remained after the early universe and thus no water or life could form. If e differed by 0.001 less, helium would not be able to form because neutrons and protons could not bond through such weak nuclear interaction. Such a universe would be simply a soup of hydrogen and no planets would exist… So the universe is fine-tuned for us? Is this a mistake? What’s going on?
Let us consult the Multiverse…
… Unfortunately for these purposes, the story of the cosmos is a little bit longer than other tales you’re probably familiar with. About 13.7 billion years longer that is. That means we’ll have to return to our stellar story in a future cosmic blink to come. But don’t worry, I promise I’ll come back to why you, and not some hocus-pocus agent behind the screen of the space-time continuum, are the wizard of the cosmic wavelength.