Tuesday, September 24, 2013
The 3 Answers: Does God exist?
This question has been the bane of philosophers, scientists, and theologians alike since the dawn of time. Descartes tried to prove the existence of God by playing the absolute cynic in his proof: "I think therefore I am". Unfortunately when he tried to go much further beyond that he got caught in a line of circular reasoning which ended up proving nothing in the end but the certainty of his own existence. In this post I will not attempt to undeniably prove the existence of God one way or another. My only hope is to successfully break down, analyze, and present the logic behind the possible answers to this question... From the perspective of my own worldview of course. In the end, the choice of what to believe is always yours.
When faced with this question most people see it as two choices between yes or no. There is however, a third response that is actually the default or null position which is: "I have no flipping clue". So thus we have 3 potential responses to choose from:
Atheism: The "no" position originating from the Greek word "Aethos" which means "without god(s)". I apologize if I offend anyone at "The Atheist Experience" by this statement, but logically Atheism isn't really the "null state" as some of you have claimed. By the definition of the word alone, this "no god(s)" response implies the very same kind of conviction that any religious fundamentalist might claim when they say they "know without any doubt that their god(s) exist". Both responses beg the question: "Oh yeah? Well prove it!"
Agnosticism: The true logical null state that says "I just don't know". This originates from the Greek word "Agnosis" which means "without knowledge". This can range from "I believe that there is some sort of god but I just don't know what kind of god he/she/it is" to "I have no idea one way or the other whether a god or gods exist" or even "Ya know... I really don't care..."
Theism: The "yes" position which opens up the door to so many more possibilities and "isms": Monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, deism... The realm of possibility is only limited by human imagination and its perception of the unseen things that may exist beyond the physical world. Once you say "yes" it becomes an incredibly convoluted and confusing mess of religions to sort through. It is absolutely no surprise to me when apathy sets in for most people and they just flip back to the default "null" position.
So how do we sort through this mess? Lets assume for simplicity sake that one single god/creator of this universe does exist. To give this universe the consistency it needs to function, wouldn't he/she/it need to be absolute, infinite, eternal, unchanging, and unwavering with respect to an evolving, and ever changing physical universe? With a universe that is in a constant state of flux wouldn't there need to be a firm and resolute set of rules to lay the foundation for any amount of order to form out of that flux? If there wasn't one and this entity wasn't all of those things, what would that mean for the fundamental laws and structure on which such a universe would be built? What if there were multiple entities vying for control? Would consistency even be possible if there wasn't one infinite and absolute author of these laws? Likewise, if an infinite and eternal entity did exist, would it even be possible for it exist or "fully" manifest itself to finite beings within the scope of a transient universe? So many confusing questions! My own personal opinion would point to a definite no on that last one. Not to say it wouldn't be able manifest at all, it just wouldn't be able to "fully" manifest and demonstrate what infinity means to the satisfaction of our tiny little finite minds. And without being able to observe infinity with our own eyes, any such partial manifestation would always beg the question: "How do I know that was really the infinte God of the universe?" So I ask: How can science (which aims at observing, understanding, and defining the nature of our physical universe) observe, understand, and define something that exists outside the context of this universe as well as outside the capacity of our finite minds? I believe the truth of the matter is that, within the confines of science and the scientific method, you will never be able to definitively prove it. Therefore to swallow this pill you need a little of something that science won't be able to give you, ie: faith; because in a universe where one infinite God does exist, science is a never-ending chase down the rabbit hole of infinity... which is why we get mad scientists... who conjur up crazy weird and fascinating theories... about things like strings... and then get mad when they try to empirically prove it.
Now lets examine the alternate view and assume there is no creator god. As science observes, interprets, and defines the nature of our universe we hypothesize, theorize, and continually revise as more and more is uncovered and discovered. (Sorry, I wasn't trying to sound like Dr. Seuss there... it just sort of happened) However, just because science discovers some new rule that governs the mechanics of our world, does that mean this specific mechanism only popped into existence once it was discovered? I say no. For example: the mechanics behind gravity functioned consistently before and after Issac Newton regardless of humanity's ability to accurately define it. Which we still haven't really done by the way because we really have no idea how it works... But at least we recognized it and point to it and say, "Hey look! Gravity exists!" Humans observed the consistent results and effects of gravity long before the apple fell on Newton's head. They just ignored it and didn't really understand the significance of what they were seeing or how it connected to the bigger picture. (sounds kind of familiar *frustrated*)
SO! Therefore, I put forth this statement: Nothing can exist in the physical universe without some sort of consistent mechanism in place to bring forth its existence. Accept, reject, or challenge that statement as you will. Here is one simplistic example: A house does not build itself. You need an architect, you need a blueprint, you need materials, you need construction workers to assemble it, and maybe a supervisor to interpret the design and bark orders. I believe it is a fundamental constant of this universe that things DO NOT spontaneously generate without a cause; even when it seems they do because we as imperfect humans could not observe the mechanism that caused its generation. When the apple fell on Newton's head he didn't think to himself, "That was completely random and spontaneous!"... He thought, "I wonder why that happened?" and began searching for an answer. I believe anything that we observe can be traced back to a definable mechanism that exists behind its generation. I also believe it is this precept which allows for science to even exist in the first place. Otherwise nothing would make any sense and we would just be standing around all the time scratching our heads wondering how the heck THAT just randomly happened. (Which typically happens anyway in science until some genius has an epiphany and makes a connection to the bigger picture)
In a universe where even the slightest possibility of spontaneous generation is possible then anything is possible. There are no rules or solid foundation, and nothing is truly constant or consistent because even the so called laws in such a universe would be subject to the possibility of being spontaneously rewritten. It is the epitome of human ego and delusion to infer that just because no human has been able to discover or observe or pinpoint the exact mechanism behind something, then that must mean there is not any mechanism at all. Call it "magic" or "illusory" or "spontaneous" if you will but that does not change the fact that there is most likely a cause that you are missing. Until sufficient evidence is found to define that mechanism we are stuck in the null state of "Something caused that...I just haven't the slightest clue what". It is the nature of cause and effect and you can not escape or deny it.
But wait! ...some of you may say. If you say nothing is spontaneous and everything has a cause, when you trace every cause back to one root cause and find an infinite god... well, what then caused god? Was this god spontaneously created? Wouldn't that make your whole house of cards tumble down? My response to that is STOP TRYING TO MAKE INFINITY FINITE! Seriously! How do you cause or create infinity? What can give birth to infinity? More infinity?! Add to infinity or subtract from it and when you are done... YOU STILL HAVE INFINITY! Infinity just is. Try and wrap your finite mind around that one... every time I do I get a headache. I also find it just a tad ironic that the concept of infinity exists everywhere in math and science but many refuse to make the connection between it and the infinite God in Bible who calls himself, "I Am". If you think infinity doesn't exist then please take it out of your equations.
The evidence that underlying mechanisms and constants such as gravity are observable, consistent, and definable gives sufficient proof (for me at least) that there is an underlying blueprint which defines all of the aspects within which this universe functions. If there wasn't such a blueprint then I believe our universe would be inconsistent, incoherent, chaotic and virtually impossible for life to even exist in. So the existence of an underlying blueprint begs the question: Where did this blueprint originate from? Can you have a design without a designer? Can you have a book without an author? Can you have a law without a...well lets just forget about that example. We really don't need to get into law or politics here yet. Lets say for simplicity sake that there is an underlying blueprint that governs the dynamics of our universe but that it just spontaneously sprung into existence. How could that blueprint have any consistency or constant form. If it spontaneously popped into existence, couldn't it also spontaneously change and rewrite itself, thus changing the underlying foundation and fabric of our universe? Introduce even the slightest possibility of causeless spontaneous generation into an ordered and structured universe and the entire foundation of it breaks down. When an author writes a book... I think it is a fallacy to consider them as two separate entities. The author pours him or her self into the book. The book is in the author and the author is in the book. Another spot of irony here is that science seeks to read and interpret this book or blueprint but refuses to acknowledge the aspect of the infinite God in the Bible called Christ, who is the Word of God. Seriously... it is the blueprint, the word, the law, whatever you want to call it which points us right too Him. My buddy John lays it out there quite nicely. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. Pretty simple... makes a ton of logical sense to me... but I really can't empirically prove it. Sorry. The blueprint... the Creator... all the same thing can't have one without the other. So how can we study this blueprint but deny one even exists?
Unfortunately, like I said, none of those questions can be sufficiently and empirically proven beyond any shadow of a doubt one way or another when applying them to a possible infinite creator. One that cannot be defined within the context of our physical universe which we attempt to observe with our five senses. Why? Because physical sensing isn't the only means we have with which to interpret and observe the universe. With something like a book we can point to the author and say "Look! There she is!"...but wait... how do we know she wrote the book? She could be lying. Unless we were hovering over her shoulder and watching as she transcribed it how could we empirically prove she wrote it? We may be able to find witnesses to testify to it but how do we know they aren't lying too? In a universe where pure causeless spontaneousness is supposedly possible, how do we know the book didn't spontaneously write itself? How can I even read the book without it spontaneously re-writing itself in my hands? When does the burden of evidence become proof? And therein lies the crux, because for ANY decision you make, you must to rely on some small amount of faith to prove what you believe. You can present the best case possible for your belief whatever it may be, but in the end you can't force it on anyone because to get there yourself you had to take a little leap of faith. And faith is a personal choice that no one else can make for you.
Now the only question you need to ask in this case of "Athe" vs "The" is which is the easier pill to swallow? Is it easier to have faith that consistency is an illusion, a grand design or blueprint doesn't exist, and therefore neither does the designer? Or is it more logical to have faith that the observations of science can be consistent and are not illusory, that the very existence of science and its ability to do what it does points to a grand design, and that such a design would by nature require a designer?
What are you looking at me for? I know what I believe. That is a decision only you can make for yourself.
But wait... we forgot about the third choice? The null state! In computer programing a null value is neither a 1 or a 0 it is simply a void of nothingness absent of any knowledge or information... Which, when I really contemplate the concept of nothingness, it seems just about as incomprehensible to my finite mind as the concept of infinity. "Nothing" is a paradox because isn't nothing really something but if it's something how can it then be nothing... I really don't get the concept, just like I don't get how someone can be content to wallow in "I just don't know" when the answers are out there. The decision not to make a decision is still a decision. To me the null state is the lazy and/or fearful mind's scapegoat.
So those are the three answers and the three choices broken down to their core... at least the core that my own imperfect and finite mind sees. I think both sides of the argument will agree that when you travel down the path that leads to a Godless universe you will find absolutely Nothing exists at the end of it. Meditate on the multiple meanings of that one for a while. *wink wink
To the Atheist I say: Have fun frolicking in a universe of illusion defined by chaos, where nothing is constant, and where in any instant, anything could happen... or nothing. Good luck trying to read the blueprint that doesn't exist or could re-write itself in any instant. Let's all hope and pray to Nothing that the Earth doesn't spontaneously implode for no apparent reason tomorrow. In all seriousness though, I salute you for your faith. It is much greater than my own. I just would not be able to stomach the pill you swallow.
To the Agnostic: Get your mind up off the couch, read something, talk to someone, search for the answers that are out there, and make a decision already! Are you a 1 or a 0? Quit wallowing in indecisiveness and fear of faith. Because nothing but Nothing exists for you in your current state!
To the Theist: I ask this one question... Why do you believe what you do? How do you know it is true? It's a complicated question, I know... good luck figuring it out and PLEASE for the love of WHATEVER you believe in... STOP trying to kill each other over it!
Lastly, to answer my earlier question as to how we sort through the mess and undeniably determine the answer to this question one way or another. I have already said it once or twice but I'll say it again just to be clear. Regardless of the choice you make the "how we prove it" is the same in both instances...
Drum roll please!....
...you can only ever prove it to yourself.
A preview of my next post and few final thoughts to chew on...
Einstein once said:
"The intiuitve mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
I would like to expand upon that a bit...
Empirical rational thought alone is just a circle,
Always ending up right where it began
Because known or unknown, there are always flaws and gaps in knowledge.
Subjective intuitive feeling alone is chaotic and formless,
One becomes lost in the cosmic vortex of possibility
And has no definitive basis to use in order to discern what is true.
However, when you embrace both..
Be prepared for an endless spiraling journey into the depths of Infinity.