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The Revelations of Janet Asimov

By Carl S ~

Once in a great while, someone comes up with answers that exponentially expand the way we see reality; Einstein and relativity, Hubble and galaxies. Charles Darwin’s discovery of evolution comes to mind. The world as revealed by him is now seen with the new eyes of a child. (Look! He's proved to be right, again!) With new insights by Janet Asimov, even Creation is not The Creation. They also, like evolution, reveal reality as it is rather than as religion would have it be. Naturally religious organizations with their powers over minds will be threatened. Save her article and scrap your scriptures.

In the Humanist magazine of July/August 2014, is the article by Janet Asimov (psychiatrist and widow of Isaac Asimov), with the title "Creativity, Then and Forever." As I read the article, my enthusiasm boiled over. It's just too good not to share. And as one with a child's wonder who is as well an avid atheist with an agenda to free believers from their various prisons, the temptation was too strong to resist sharing. And a believer happened to be in the room with me. So I jumped at the opportunity to read it aloud.

The author begins by telling of her search for a dictionary meaning of the word "create, " and found, "to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary evolve from one's own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention."

Asimov strongly disagreed with this narrow interpretation. She asks, among other questions,

"Why do religious fundamentalists insist that their god created everything once and for all? I suppose it makes them feel safe, in a universe teeming with uncertainty...I don't see how creativity can exist without the ability to accept, anticipate, and use the everlasting uncertainty of Change..., I want to step on the toes of whoever put that definition in my dictionary, and especially on the toes of religious fundamentalists who foam at the mouth when Charles Darwin is mentioned."

Whoa! At that point, the believer said, "I've heard enough," and shut her mind's door. Whenever this happens, I know something about the believer as well as about myself: shutting the door means that there is a problem one doesn't want to face. And often it's a serious problem. In this case, the believer almost missed out on the revealing next part. This I introduced gently. Asimov: "I think that creativity is a natural aspect of the universe, and not put there by a creator." She offers examples. She explains that evolution in itself IS creativity, working within the uncertainty of changes, ever manipulating and adapting. (Doesn't curiosity itself create the impulses to create- often just for the fun of it? It sure does.)

Religion opposes the reality of uncertainty. Religion demands security, even if it is falseAt this point, I must say that I see the universe as self-created; unplanned and spontaneous. Period. Prove otherwise. Not only that, but, creativity, like evolution, is how the universe really works.

Well then. Outside of the non-necessity of a Creator to create everything, why should believers be threatened emotionally and "spiritually?" I'll guess it's because creation exists not only in spite of a creator, but in uncertainty, and its results from acts of creating are not predetermined. Believers are scared shitless about uncertainty to the extent that they create gods and other "supernatural" forces to control what might happen and to protect against what is inevitable. Their God "the creator" is dogmatically asserted to have "purposes" for his creations, where creativity is interpreted only as creating something for a purpose. Observations of the natural world reveal otherwise. These observations, like evolutionary ones, run contrary to religious beliefs. (Note: If you want to piss off fundamentalists, simply tell the truth.) Believers want a secure castle in the universe, an all-dependable father-figure they can turn to. Growing up is hard to do. In the words of Janet Asimov, "I suppose it makes them feel safe." Nature couldn't care less about safety.

Obviously, humans aren't really resigned to accepting things as they are. We manipulate reality to our own benefit. We, as well as the rest of nature, create results beneficial to ourselves. We use uncertainty and welcome it as the means to finding answers, solutions, accumulating knowledge, asking more questions, in finding more to be curious about.

Religion opposes the reality of uncertainty. Religion demands security, even if it is false; even if its answers are purely psychological manipulation, and even if its gods are products of the creative imagination. And, while religions deal with uncertainty by proclaiming, for example, "God is in control," their actions tell us that they all deal with the uncertainty of human nature by creating controls over the thoughts and actions of humans.( Sometimes by using the sword to control them.) What about those who want to believe in the supernatural? Don't trust religions with interpreting their "purposes." Religious "certainties" are a double-edged sword. They bring their own self-created anxieties, fears of offending those supernatural forces. They bring uncertainties about whether the misfortunes of one's loved ones or friends are the results of those offenses. (For example: there is the uncertainty of not knowing if someone you love is in eternal torment because he did not believe.)

Unspoken fears were beneath the surface as I read Janet Asimov's words. These explain why my believer was so upset. This person, being human, craves certainty. We all understand this. Her embracing of the certainty she has been taught to believe in has become second nature to her. With the "trigger" words such as God or soul or heaven, or in control of, or grace, she has been programmed to act and react to the reality about her. Unthinkingly and fearfully, she clings to this rock. She has been taught not to doubt and to trust instead the authority of the certain who know not that religion is the business of maintaining denial of the uncertainty and indifference of the universe.

Why bother fearing uncertainty? If the Wright brothers didn't deal with the uncertain outcomes of their experiments, would airplanes exist? Would any progress happen without failures along the way? Why, the uncertainty of outcome does not deter the male birds from ornate displays, dances, nest-building, and ridiculous behaviors to court the female, any more than it does to the male of any species. One doesn't have a guarantee for certain that the soul-mate one knows and loves so well who promises to "forsake all others" will not have affairs and/or end the relationship of eternal love. Tomorrow, you and I may not be alive. (We speak of lingering deaths, but all deaths are instantaneous.) As much as we strive to make the future certain, there are no guarantees. And that can be comforting, because it can turn out better than we anticipated. Doubt and be free.