Oneness

 

Philosophers have long pondered the problem of the One and the Many, wondering if there a single principle or essential unity that permeates everything. But when all is said and done, it really seems that the search for unity or oneness beneath the incredible complexity of the universe is ultimately a search for God.

 

This can be seen not only in religions where monotheism (belief in a single God) replaced polytheism (a belief in many gods). It can also be seen where monism (that God is everything) has replaced pantheism (that everything is God). It can be see in efforts to bring the world's religions together, and within Christianity where ecumenismthe effort to overcome sectarian rivalryseeks to fulfill the prayer of Jesus that "all may be one." Meanwhile, a vaguely mystical "spirituality" attempts to replace religion entirely for those who have lost patience with all the rest.

 

This longing for or movement towards oneness can be seen in the various sciences as well. Physics, that most fundamental of the natural sciences, seeks what one physicist has called "the God Particle" while his more mathematically-inclined colleagues, following Einsteinwho spoke about wanting to see the Universe "as God sees it"seek to unite gravity with other three basic forces within a over-arching "theory of everything".

 

Again, we see this drive at work even with Darwin, who sought to explain through a single theory that might account the diversity of life, with its tens of thousands of speciesas well as the immense amount of suffering and tragedy in the world.

 

Likewise, in biological research today, the immense complexity of the human genome, indeed of all life, can be reduced to endless recombinations of just four basic components, the nucleotides adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thynine (A, G, C, and T). Through such research, the practice of medicine may some day be able to finally arrive at a single, comprehensive approach to preventing or curing a major portion of the world's diseases, just as this new knowledge has enabled agricultural science to greatly advance the kind of genetic "engineering" that over past millennia by more "hit or miss" methods that slowly advanced human life beyond the stone age.

 

So too in the "softer" sciences, like sociology and psychology, and even history and economics. Here one theory after another attempts to reduce the complexity of human behavior into predictable patterns that might not only explain past behavior, but even enable us to avoid future man-made disasters. Even in politics, the great challenge remains: how to manage human diversity in such a way that we do not end up destroying the whole world?

No doubt many are suspicious of any tendency to seek simple answers to complex problems. Many may see this as an inborn tendency toward mental laziness. In some instances, this may be the case. But finding simple answers that really work is never easy, for it is, at its deepest level, like the religious-philosophical impulse that fuels it, an attempt to move beyond the bewildering world of superficial appearanceswhat the Greeks called the "cosmos"into a more comprehensive vision of the whole system that we call "the Universe".

 

 

R W Kropf 2/4/06

 

 

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