Touching The Limits Of Knowledge

Cosmology and our View of the World


Lukas Gessner & Sarah Nelson


Summary by Ryan Keenan

Oneness in the Universe


M. Gleiser “Tear at the Edge of Creation” Chapters 1-10

The discussion was on the topic of oneness that could potentially be applied to our world, our species and other species. The different types of oneness discussed included: scientific oneness (the idea that everything is united by the same scientific laws), societal oneness, moral oneness, cultural oneness, and oneness applied in relation to other life forms. The following is an assortment of questions and responses that generated the direction the discussion took:

• If we discovered extra terrestrial life, would our attitude toward oneness change, i.e., would it make us feel more distinctly human, and thus make it easier and more beneficial to cooperate?

• Do survival instincts impede oneness? Similarly: Do economic structures impede oneness and does globalization therefore impede oneness?

• It seems clear that survival instincts impede oneness. However, hunting and gathering tribes draw even sharper distinctions between themselves and other tribes than globally connected humans (humans connected globally by technology) do. Globalization provides information about other countries and cultures and therefore allows for a development of tolerance of these countries and cultures through education, yet it also allows for an increase in conflict as seen when one country gains knowledge of another’s resources and attempts to take these resources by force. So it does not seem reasonable to say that we should revert from a globalized society to locally sustainable societies as a solution for achieving oneness.

• A societal oneness, the cooperation of individuals in society, seems to be only a considerable idea when material concerns are significantly diminished because our focus shifts away from our survival instincts. This can’t be true because as humans we are never satisfied with ‘being comfortable’ we want ‘something more’, specifically in a global sense; many believe that a universally applicable morality, if it were to be internalized by every individual, could achieve a oneness for humans.

• Is oneness really to be desired? Oneness with respect to culture can be horrific, as history has demonstrated through imperialism. Oneness from a scientific perspective does not seem to contribute to any significant oneness with respect to improving relations between individuals, cultures or countries; the fact that we are all subject to gravity or that we are all comprised of atoms isn’t effective in instilling a sense of unity.

• If oneness were achieved would it be satisfactory? This question illuminates the concept that one man’s utopia is another’s dystopia. Furthermore, if oneness were achieved, how would we distinguish the positive if there did not exist a negative? It seems that oneness would produce an amorphous existence that could not even be conceived of because there could exist no distinctions within a system of oneness. It seems to follow from this that oneness should involve one or more unifying elements that would allow for distinctions and competition in our world to be kept, but the negative by-products of distinction and competition would be eliminated.

• (An alternate definition of oneness is proposed): Perhaps oneness is being aware of your actions, and being aware of other’s actions while having the welfare of the greater population in mind. This definition seems to imply that oneness is contingent on empathy and altruism, and perhaps is an issue of respect. This definition involves a moral oneness.

• Oneness may just be a perspective, in which case there would be different goals of oneness for each field of study such as: oneness within the perspective of morality it might be achieving a normative oneness for all actions of individuals, or in the case of science, it might achieving a descriptive oneness where all agree on the accuracy of the description. However, I do not think that oneness as a perspective qualifies as a definition. I believe a useful definition of oneness should have an objective basis that can be applied to all cases with respect to all existence on our planet. Perhaps such a basis would provide cohesion of the different fields (science, morality, economics ect.) that allowed for the optimal performance of each field. If oneness is a perspective, its utility becomes limited because although it can be universally applied, the different perspectives have no effect on one another as seen with scientific oneness and cultural/cooperative oneness. Furthermore, if the perspective is taken to an individual level it becomes absurd because oneness would be whatever anyone perceived it to be. Some argue that there are underlying perceptions that are shared by all (psychologically sound) humans; I think it would be worthy to identify these perceptions and then identify their origin.


The discussion was slightly sporadic, and there seemed to be a general confusion as to what oneness would mean. There seemed to be two separate pursuits of oneness: The scientific oneness and the cooperative oneness of our species. Both pursuits failed to come to a consensus on the definition of oneness but both seemed to hint that the idea of oneness, if taken to the extreme case, would be either a negative or inconceivable achievement. A useful oneness, a oneness with an objective basis that could be applied to all cases with respect to all existence on our planet, was not discovered. However, I would argue that the exploration of morality could potentially lead to the definition of a useful oneness, although that remains to be seen.