Carl Sagan was a smart guy.
It was Carl Sagan that first got me interested in any kind of science. Not, mind you, interested enough to actually study any of the hard sciences (I wound up in Speech Communication), but interested enough to appreciate science and what it has brought us. More importantly, he taught me to question things, rather than relying on blind faith that it works that way because that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
That, by the way, is what’s known in logic circles as tautology.
Anyway, back in the day, Sagan wrote a rare piece of fiction called “Contact.” You may or may not have heard of it, may or may not have seen the movie. Both the book and the movie were relatively harsh on religious extremism. Interestingly enough, though, I would argue that both the book and the movie had a serious religious bent in and of themselves. There are concepts of taking things on faith and messages hidden deep in pi.
At some point, fairly late in the book, someone is calculating pi to about gajillion decimal places and comes across an interesting anomaly: the normally random patterns of this famously irrational number drop zeros and ones for a while and go back to random digits. The zeros and ones are binary code and, when plotted out, draw a circle.
It’s posited that the circle is a message. From whom is never really addressed, but it’s assumed the message is from some sort of creator.
That got me thinking, slowly pinging away at a problem over the decades since I read “Contact.” All major religions have a book that contains all their important information about how to be a member of that religion, what it means to be a member of that religion, and what you’re supposed to do to people who aren’t a member of that religion. That text becomes the focal point for the religion and also serves dual purpose of ending all arguments (it’s not in the book, it doesn’t exist) and beating people about the head and shoulders. NOTE: Not all religious folk do this, but it does happen.
Ultimately religious texts are unassailable from an argumentative position. In order to be a member of a religion, you usually have to believe that the text that defines the religion was divinely inspired or divinely created. Therefore, no external argumentation can occur. The book was written by God, end of story, end of debate.
This is why arguing about religion is ultimately a huge waste of everyone’s time and both sides’ time would be better served shouting Mad Magazine quotes at each other. Either you believe the text was divinely inspired or you don’t.
Now, all religious texts are open to some form of analysis and interpretation by believers. This is why there are multiple sects of all large religions. At some point in each religion’s life cycle, someone will start to question something and a whole new sect of the religion will ultimately spin up, divided between the supporters of something old and the supporters of something new. Each portion will then usually continue to grow.
It’s actually kind of like an amoeba that way.
So, anyway, after I read “Contact,” I started to wonder if there actually is a message buried in there somewhere. In some ways it makes sense. Why would a creator leave his or her mark in the form something as open to interpretation as a book?
I suspect, if you dig deep enough into the natural world, you’ll ultimately find the code that runs the universe. While the heady thrill of scientific triumph will be nearly overwhelming, the code itself will probably be pretty simple. I suspect we’ll find definitions of how things can interact with what other things to create ever more complex things. This is your low-level code, kind of like what runs on your BIOS. Things like the code that define a tree or a dog or you, will be high-level code. Low-level code usually stands on its own and only needs hardware to run on. High-level code depends on low-level code and runs on hardware but is more mutable. This could explain why there’s so much diversity out there, but only to a certain degree. The rules in the code will define what works and what doesn’t work and that’s why we don’t see 100′ long ants taking over. The low-level code defines basic functions like how the universe is glued together. Higher level code defines how elements form, chemicals react and so on.
I guess this would make children a perfect example of instantiated objects based on polymorphic code.
Since Carl Sagan was such a bright guy, I have to wonder if he didn’t come across this same idea, but decided to simplify it for easier ingestion.
Now all we need is a universe decompiler and a lot of free time to see if anyone left comments in the code.