Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (John 1:1-18) transports me to the mythical world of the Star Trek universe, where we get a glimpse into the creation of the planet and people of Vulcan. As their name suggests, their culture was forged in the fires of eons-long conflict and violence, all of which led them at some point to adopt what they are best known for – their logic. You don’t have to be a full-fledged trekkie and go to conventions to appreciate this mythical world. And if you want to learn the back story behind Mr. Spock and his people of Vulcan, a fascinating read is a book called Spock’s World. It gives the long history behind the creation and evolution of the Vulcan culture, its deep-seeded violent nature, and the eventual coming of a messiah figure name Surak who convinced them to adopt a philosophy called cthia in order to save themselves from themselves. Logic is a poor translation of the Vulcan concept of cthia; it is much more. It is a set of principles, a way of life, a way of communicating, a discipline to practice that in the end keeps entropy at bay. The book translates it as reality-truth — seeing things the way they really are, instead of the way we would like to see them. I highly recommend the book; it’s like J.R.R. Tolkien meets Robert Heinlein.
Or you can read the first chapter of the gospel of John, where theology meets cosmology and we get a glimpse into the long history of our own world’s creation, forged from the chaos of nothingness. I imagine Chief Science Officer Spock, given his appreciation and practice of cthia, would love John’s opening line. In the beginning was the Word, or, from the Greek, in the beginning was the Logos, the logic. But like cthia, Logos is much more than what we associate with logic; it is much more than the mathematical metrics of sound reasoning and principles of validity. It is a creative force, the creative force, behind all life, behind all that exists. Logos is the Word that can create structures of beauty out of chaos. It is the Word that continues to create an ever-evolving and diversifying universe. It is the way life works; it is the reality truth, the underlying code written on every star and on every cell, every galaxy and every atom. And once upon a time, the story tells us, that Logos, that Word, that cthia, became flesh, so we could see the code plainly, and learn the Truth about who we really are.
It’s interesting to read that among the biologists who study how the world came to be there is not just one logic of evolution, but there are various logics. Darwin was not the first to write a theoretical framework for the logic of evolution. Fifty years prior to his work, a French scientist named Jean Baptiste Lamarck wrote a book spelling out his theory. There were flaws in the mechanics of his theory; some of the nuts and bolts were easily dis-proven, so he went into obscurity. He remained there until recent years, as scientists have begun to recognize that despite Lamarck’s mistakes, there was a guiding principle, a logic if you will, behind his theory that is truer and more valid than Darwin’s. Darwin’s theory, we remember, rested on the logic of survival of the fittest, with fierce competition as the central code behind what propels life. Lamarck’s theory rested on the exact opposite logic; he wrote that cooperation, not competition, is the driving force, the ultimate logic at the core of everything that is. And now the quantum physicists are agreeing with him, as they see an intricate system of cooperation and collaboration at work at every level of the universe, from subatomic to cosmic. They could have gone further back than Lamarck to find the foundations for such a theory. John’s gospel tells us that in the beginning was the Logos, and at one point in time that Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, so that we could behold the glory of the Creator, we could see the code, the logic, behind it all. Whereas Lamarck called it cooperation, John calls it love. I remember one of my college professors, a political scientist who was also a genius at mathematical modeling, teaching us about the existence of multiple logics. He explained that it is possible to create a mathematical proof for the “reality” that the sun revolves around the earth. He even scribbled some of that complicated formula on the board. But, he said, the logic that the earth revolves around the sun, and the corresponding mathematical formula, is simpler, more elegant, he said, and you always want to find the most elegant solution to a problem. Darwin’s logic of competition, with nature clawing it out for survival, can certainly be mapped out; the formula exists. But Lamarck’s, and John’s logic, the Logos of creative and cooperative love, seems abundantly more elegant, and much more likely to keep entropy at bay. I just wonder how different our society would be if we operated out of the truth of Lamarck’s and John’s logic, rather than the competition and survival of the fittest logic which drives so much of what we do, from entertainment to sports to politics to religion. Maybe we just need to spend some more time beholding as John did that glory of the Logos made flesh, and then see how it gets fleshed out in our lives.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.