“Those who ponder human nature and the human condition cannot simply ignore the nature of humanity and its position in time and space as revealed by the instruments of modern physics and cosmology. They must cast off the traditions of thousands of years and accept that we are not special, indeed not at all important in the grand scheme of things. We are made of the same stuff as everything else, thrown together by accident and evolving according to no special purpose or plan in an underlying reality having no beginning, no end, and no distinction between past and future.” Victor J. Stenger, emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii.

What is, is; and what is, is matter. But it is ever in a state of flux, forever changing; and thus man who is changing matter and is conscious of a beginning and end calls change time. But in reality there is no time, there is only change. The universe had no beginning and has no ending, it just is. Time to man is an illusion. Just as man once thought that the world was flat, that Earth was the center of the universe, that the sun rose and set and that he had free will, so he thinks that there is a beginning and an ending. All are illusions.

There is only the present. The past begets the present and the present begets the future. Thus if the past is the present and the present the future, there is only the present. And there is no cause and effect in reality.

Professor Stenger again: “So the first thing we learn about ourselves from modern scientific instruments is that we are made of the same basic stuff as rocks and that life and mind require no special ingredients, material or immaterial. All they need is some carbon and other atoms with sufficient complexity to grow nonlinear structures to evolve into forms with sufficient complexity to exhibit the qualities that we label as living and sentient.” That is, the body and mind of man, governed by the laws of chemistry and physics, evolved from the same matter as rocks.

Almost daily science is answering the question of how man and all life evolved by the discovery of   new scientific evidence and the evidence is without exception antithetical to the claim of the Creationists and compatible with the theory of the evolutionists. Darwin was right and his disciples no longer have to argue the issue. All they have to do is to tell the skeptics to weigh the evidence with an open mind.

It may be that there is no good or evil in an absolute sense. It may be that what man considers good and evil is not good and evil at all from an omniscient vantage but only from a finite vantage. The Ten Commandments make no sense to the rest of life. They were fashioned by wise men with a perspective of what man did that provoked strife and resulted in detriment to the tribe. Their validity today is predicated only on the identical nature of man to his nature five millenniums ago. Adultery today enrages a spouse no less than it did Hamlet’s father when his wife bedded with his brother.

So what is the point of all of this strange philosophizing? Once again Professor Stenger: “Ignoring the data from advanced scientific instruments and going back to relying solely on the data from everyday life will only result in a degradation of knowledge and a return to barbarism.” Not a return to, but a continuation of, barbarism.

I have read that there are 33,000 different denominations, sects, cults , etc., subsumed under Christianity and that there are 10,000 different religions in the world. It is obvious that most of humankind cannot live without illusions. People need to believe in a personal God, a God who hears prays and is susceptible to petitions seeking to suspend the laws of nature; who rewards virtue and punishes evil; and who keeps a heaven for the faithful and a hell for the unbelieving wicked. They need to believe that there is a beginning and an end, believe in time, in cause and effect, in Creationism, and in free will. Even though the evidence indicates that all of the above are illusions.

It is unlikely that barbarism will be succeeded by a universal civility so long as man refuses to face and exorcise all the illusions and delusions supporting his psyche and his faith. He must accept the probability that man and all life came from the same matter, that he is nothing special, that he is no more divine than a mouse, that he is insignificant measured by the vastness of the universe, that he lives in a world of illusions owing to the limits of his senses and the delusions of his sentient self, that he is here by chance and for no end, that he must generate his own purpose of life within a framework of reason and humaneness. And go to his grave, not with the expectation of another life in the hereafter, but sustained with the knowledge of having made most of what opportunities and challenges this life had to offer and having discharged adequately the duties and responsibilities it exacted.

Further, he needs to face death with memories of having had an intimate relationship with nature; of having done physical, needful work that brought reward and rest; of having had a family that worked together to furnish their bread; having had an open and honest relationship with the mass of mankind; and knowing that he will   die in familiar surroundings attended by family and kin.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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