|Mark & Heinz Pagels circa 1980|
"I think the universe is a message written in code, a cosmic code, and the scientist's job is to decipher that code.
If we accept the idea that the universe is a book read by scientists, then we ought to examine how reading this book influences civilization. Scientists have unleashed a new force into our social, political and economic development--perhaps the major force. What distinguishes this new knowledge is that its source lies outside of human institutions--it comes from the material universe itself. By contrast, literature, art, the law, politics, and even the methods of science have been invented by us. But we did not invent the universe.
In 1965 I was walking through the Boston Commons with friends and met an elderly woman with bright and lively eyes. She was wearing a homemade dress. A poet, she belonged to a small community which rejected the use of machines. The woman told me that her small group saw the human spirit as corrupted by modern life and by technology. She explained that a demonic spirit had come upon this earth about three hundred years ago, a spirit inimical to humanity, which it set out to destroy. The malevolence began when the best minds were captured. The conquest was all but complete, she said, only a few held firm against the final fall. I thought of William Blake, another poet, lamenting Newton's blindness.
The woman asked me what I did, and when I said I was a physicist I was greeted by a look of horror. I was one of "them", the enemy. I felt a chasm open between us.
Some years later I spoke to a mentally disturbed young man. Very agitatedly, he described to me how alien beings from outer space had invaded the earth. They were formed of mental substance, lived in human minds, and controlled human beings through the creations of science and technology. Eventually this alien being would have an autonomous existence in the form of giant computers and would no longer require humans [as hosts.] Soon he was hospitalized because he was unable to shake off this terrible vision.
The old poet and the young man are correct, in their perception that science and technology come from "outside" the realm of human experience. They were sensitive to this perception in a way that most of us suppress. What is outside of us is the universe as a material revelation, the message that I call the cosmic code and that is now programming human social and economic development. What may be perceived as threatening in this alien contact is that scientists, in reading the cosmic code, have entered into the invisible structures of the universe. By the nature of the phenomena it studies, science has become increasingly abstract. The cosmic code has become invisible. The unseen is influencing the seen."