God

creation

The Three Choices of Creation

Out there on the interwebs, there is a war going on for the soul of something, and it is known as the fine-tuning argument. It’s essentially an argument that stipulates that the constants that govern the Universe as we know it were fine-tuned by an external creator to allow intelligent life—as are we—to flourish. If any one of these constants were changed just a smidgen, then life (as we know it) couldn’t exist.

There are three ways to look at this:

1. There is an external designer (God) who fine-tuned these constants to allow for our existence
2. It was sheer, blind luck that our universe had these constants and not some others—assuming that is, they could be anything else
3. These values are what they are because we live in a multiverse in which all possible values of the constants are instantiated and we find ourselves here simply because here is one of the few places we can be (the weak antropic principle)

(1) is obviously what the religiously inclined would choose. (3) is what many scientists and the scientifically inclined would choose, though of course, not all. There are many debates and discussions out there taking sides, giving evidence and reasoning for this and that, but I see very few people discussing (2). So I want to get some skin into the game, but with a different angle—I’m sure there are others out there who do see it this way. I just haven’t found them. The internet is a big place, or so I’ve been told.

Lets assume (1) to be true. How could we ever rule out (2)? The answer is, as far as I can tell, you cannot. Sure, we could say if we received a sign, we’d be sure: one night, we see the stars rearrange to spell the words “I Am That I Am”, or a book is beamed down from the heavens that explicitly details the spookiness of quantum entanglement or some such equally advanced knowledge we have not arrived at. But then, we couldn’t rule out an advanced alien species playing a practical joke on us, or giving us advanced physics we are not yet aware of, so we’re back at square one. There is no way to definitively rule out chance—or aliens. Theologians often make this statement against scientists (they call it scientism), insinuating that we can never be sure of what our scientific theories tell us, and in the next breath invoking God (the irony is lost on them).

Now, lets assume (3) to be true. How do you rule out (2)? The answer is, you don’t need to. It is part and parcel of the same package. Essentially both are down to chance. We might not might be able to say definitively we live in a singular universe or multiverse—although there are ways we might get observational proof of a multiverse. But we should be able to say with confidence that (1) could, in principle, be ruled out definitively and either (2) or (3) be true without fear of going awry.

One way or the other, something has to be infinite and eternal into the past. Either God or some other entity for (1) to hold true or the universe/multiverse of (2)/(3). The latter two have one less assumption (being that the wider reality of which we may be a part of has no complicated attributes; such as intelligence, creativity, and/or emotion that God is seemingly endowed with. We don’t need to explain why that wider reality, if indeed it exists, is simple, non-material, and non-sentient, though we would if a God was involved). Anyone else have an opinion? To me, this seems too easy. I feel like I’m missing something.

Mt Olympus

Heaven

This is sub-chapter #7, of Chapter 2, Philosophy, of my ongoing rewrite and open editing process Random Rationality: A Rational Guide to an Irrational World.

Would greatly appreciate any feedback, corrections, criticisms, and comments. If you want the MOBI, ePub, or PDF, then please let me know in the comments—if you provide constructive criticisms in return, and live in the US, UK, or EU, then I’ll ship you a paperback copy of the book free of charge when it’s published.


HEAVEN

For a moment, let’s say the Abrahamic god exists, and that depending upon your earthly actions you will be met with a heavenly eternity. You lead a good life; you help the poor, you follow the 613 commandments, you love thy neighbor, and upon your fortunate death, you are received at the pearly gates.

How will you spend your first year in heaven? Re-connecting with loved ones, perhaps? How about your first decade? Long walks on Cloud Nine, picking the brains of Jesus, Abraham, Mohammed, Elvis, perhaps even the big G himself, exploring the vast sanctum of his infinite knowledge using the heavenly version of our own Big G: Google (God = Gòógle?)

How about the first century? Trying all the experiences you were too scared to do while you were a lowly mortal, only to find the thrill is gone now that Death no longer lingers close by.

What about the next thousand years, and the million thereafter? And then the billion after, and the next trillion? Then what? I guarantee you one day, you’re going to want to not be there. What could possibly make eternity fun?

If you have ever eaten more than five chocolate bars in a row—like I foolishly have—then you probably know what heaven will be like. The first one tastes amazing. By the second, your taste buds are a bit desensitized, but it still tastes good. Ditto with the third and  ditto a little more with the fourth. Finally you try a fifth one on for size, and it tastes like nothing. Just a bland paste as your mouth goes through the motions—add a sixth and you’ll want to vomit.

We all had this feeling as kids, and perhaps as teens for the sweeter-toothed among us, and even now for myself. But take that feeling, multiply it by a really, really large number, and you’ll get a taste as to how boring heaven would become. One day, it will be no different from death. Does the eternal darkness seem so scary now?

Many hold up the Near-Death-Experiences (NDE) as proof of an afterlife, but they are anything but. All they are proof of is the funny things that happen when a person’s brain receives faulty sensory information, or, embarks on the road to anoxia (oxygen death), as carbon dioxide creeps upwards, triggering dopamine-induced euphoric hallucinations.

There have also been several recent studies that have shown the rejection of evolution, and likewise, acceptance of Intelligent Design (ID) is closely correlated with existential angst. Namely, the fear of one’s mortality. In four studies, groups of people from all walks of life (including atheists and theists), were reminded of their own mortality and asked questions related to evolutionary theory and ID. After such reminders, all groups (even the most godless heathens) showed a tendency towards ID, and thus an afterlife. It was theorized this occurred due to a desire to find greater meaning and purpose, and evolution at first glance, seemingly provides very little. So belief in an afterlife is not at all correlated with its truth or validity, but rather in the hope it brings. That despair changed once people were told various ways of deriving meaning from what at first glance, appears to be evolutions nihilistic drive. It seems to me that people are only driven to such despair as they move from an edifice of externally derived purpose and hope, toward a self-derived edifice of meaning. Most people naturally pause in the chasm between these two separate cliff-faces, often looking back toward the safety and familiarity of ID instead of advancing into the indifference of evolution, little knowing that meaning would be theres to make as they will.

In another study, by the University of England, it was shown that belief in ID was highly correlated with one’s need of cognitive closure. That is, the need for definitive information no longer amiable to revision, as is ID, where the buck stops at God.

Heaven, at least as we have come to understand it in the West, seems as boring and unimaginative a concept as it is possible to conjure up, and seems to correlate highly with mortality, existential angst, and cognitive closure. I value the eternal darkness that is coming, for it reminds me to do all that I wish to do in this life here and now. (I also may never ever see that eternal darkness, but more on that in Future of Tech.)

“Yet if the transcendental world is vaguely assumed to be ‘timeless’ then we have to ask if we understand the difference between timeless existence and extinction, and I think the answer has to be that there is none.” ~ Simon Blackburn (Philosopher)


Explanation of God

God

This is sub-chapter #6, of Chapter 2, Philosophy, of my ongoing rewrite and open editing process Random Rationality: A Rational Guide to an Irrational World.

Brief Synopsis:

The book takes twenty seemingly random subjects, attempting however poorly, to thread them together in the process, attempting to make sense of the world we live in today. It is a very macroscopic worldview as the whole book fits into two-hundred pages, but aims to tickle the intellects of people just enough so they may go on to study more in-depth the subjects of their liking. The narrative attempts to abolish isolatory thinking, i.e., we so often talk, discuss, and debate topics in isolation and assume that the same points prevail in the real world where nothing exists in isolation.

Would greatly appreciate any feedback, corrections, criticisms, and comments. If you want the MOBI, ePub, or PDF, then please let me know in the comments—if you provide constructive criticisms in return, and live in the US, UK, or EU, then I’ll ship you a paperback copy of the book free of charge when it’s published.


GOD

For thousands of years, humanity has attempted to explain that elusive being called God, but the commonly accepted mental manifestation of Him today reeks of overcomplicated and distorted human ideals that a God simply would not have, and what we are learning in cosmology is seriously putting a dent in the deistic God (sometimes called the philosophical God).

Throughout much of recorded history, we’ve had gods, eventually culminating in the One True God of monotheism. The explanations for their existence seem clear in hindsight; to explain the unknowable to those who have never grown comfortable to the thought of doubt—which, admittedly is many of us, this author included—and give us purpose and meaning in this life.

We began with dozens, perhaps hundreds of gods who oversaw the myriad forces of nature such as Zeus, the Greek god of thunder and ruler of Mt. Olympus, and Anubis, the Egyptian god of the underworld. We now have the One True God with His angels to help govern His domain. Himself, an evolution of the concepts that attempted to tame man’s initial ignorance. So the next time a creationist tells you evolution is a myth, explain to him or her that religion has itself evolved from simple roots. As a matter-of-fact, Yahweh was originally the Israeli God of the Armies, evolving into the One True God around the time of the Babylonian Exodus, which seemingly explains the barbarism of the Old Testament…but I digress.

The modern incarnation of God is now—not necessarily always was—word-magic and misdirection in the name of politics and power. A mental manifestation crafted to satisfy our basic needs of closure and certainty, which subsequently evolved, for a few, into their base needs of power and control.

In today’s modern scientific age, there is a conflict between the scientific rationalism that has emerged over the last four-hundred years and the superstition that is slowly dying—well, in some parts of the world at least. Many debates, arguments, attacks, and various other means of communication have been devoted to the exploration, explanation, and examination of these two opposing, and seemingly immovable trains of thought. At first, I will attempt to discuss the philosophic God, or deistic God that created the Universe and then left it to its merry ways, then the theistic God. Normally, you’d think I’d discuss the Judeo-Christian God first, devolving him into the philosophic God, then attempting to do away with him too, but this book does not have Random affixed to its title for design purposes!

During any one of the aforementioned communications, the inevitable questions will arise: ‘Where did everything come from?’ or ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?

For believers, the inability to answer such questions may be tacit proof that God exists. For if there wasn’t a god to create the Universe, then from whence did it come? At face value it seemingly passes the rigor of logic, but digging past that shallow veneer shows it as nothing more than the aforementioned word magic. It leaves one pondering the question: a long time ago, in a land far, far, away, did ignorance become proof of God? Human intuition is simply not a reliable means of arriving at an objective truth. As discussed in the previous chapter, almost all the conclusions that we as a species have arrived at intuitively have turned out to be wrong: from Aristotelian Physics, to Newtonian Mechanics, to Euclidean Geometry, to plate tectonics and many, many others. Where our Universe came from is no different. To intuit an answer does not give it any validity. (Not that that means you shouldn’t try.)

So where did the Universe come from? Let us say God for argument’s sake. One should then ask the same question again: Where did God come from?

Many will claim that He just is and always has been using such words as timeless, uncaused, and infinite. Usually, this is where the discussion ends with the theist satisfied in his answer, little knowing nothing was answered. Otherwise known as the Cosmological Argument, or to philosophers of religion, a weak—and to some—wrong version of it.

The crux of the Cosmological Argument goes something like this: there must be something (God, unmoved mover, uncaused cause) that has within it the reasons for its own existence. Anything that does not contain such a reason within it is necessarily contingent on something that does, or something that doesn’t based on something else that doesn’t based on something else that does—hope that made sense. But then how is this different from the immaterial, non-sentient Quantum Field of Quantum Field Theory discussed in the previous chapter that invariably, and mechanistically creates localized somethings and nothings (that still add up to nothing)? It does not, indeed cannot, provide a basis or proof of God except to metaphorically describe that immaterial process as God, which all by itself invalidates all religions based as they are on a personal, caring, infinitely powerful, and intruding deity. But why so many people dismiss the Quantum Field because it cannot be observed, yet are unwilling to do similar with God, betrays a certain double standard.

“The first principle is you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” ~Richard Feynman (Theoretical Physicist)

And if God has always been, then why cannot the Universe always have been? Or if the Universe did indeed have a cause, then why cannot that cause have been natural as particle physicist Victor Stenger probes? Why immediately leap to the conclusion that it was supernatural? Having a God raises the exact questions as not having one. He then goes on to say in his book, The God Hypothesis, putting a twist on the classic existential question, “Why is there God and not nothing?

Merely postulating that God is the creator seems to be a sneaky method of subverting the question of where the cosmos came from without answering it and I believe that it was invented—in so much as you can invent an answer—for precisely this purpose. Even were Quantum Field Theory to have no say-so on the matter, how are we to say with confidence, that the Universe has not the reason for its own existence inherently within it? Or that the Quantum Field does not have the reason for its own existence within itself? (It does.) Most arguments that argue God assume inside the Universe and the Universe are the same thing, but the Universe from where we sit inside it, seemingly already violates, certain fundamental laws we take as inviolable!

For example: we know, due to Edwin Hubble that space-time is expanding and thanks to Einstein, the speed of light is the fundamental upper speed-limit of the Universe. No matter how close to the speed of light you travel, were you to shine a light in the direction you were traveling, the shining light would travel away from you at the speed of light. With a big enough telescope, looking in any direction from Earth, you would eventually come upon a distance or time (since they are intertwined), where you could see no further (right now this distance is blocked by the last scattering surface of the Big Bang, but the model still applies). The reason why is not that you’ve reached the end of the Universe, but that light from the other side of this fictitious divide has not reached you yet and never will. Stated scientifically, the objects on the other side of this divide are moving away from you faster than their light is racing towards you. Wait…What!? What’s actually happening is, though galaxies seem to be moving away from each other, what’s really happening is that the space in-between them is expanding, giving an illusion of movement. As you go out further and more space expands, more space expands in-between the more space. If you go out far enough, so much space is being created that the speed of light cannot travel the interceding distance. Similar to laying down an infinite railroad track in front of an incoming train so efficiently that the train never reaches the end, and the more you build, the faster you are able to build, until observers on the train can no longer see the end of the track and never again will. So while the speed of light is immutable, it does not bind its own inviolability to the Universe as a whole. As such, so many arguments for God are contingent on cause-and-effect to be applicable at the universal inception, though it is only an built-in assumption that causal reasoning applies before the Big Bang. Cause-and-effect, so relevant inside the Universe, does not necessarily bind itself to the Universe as a whole. In fact, according to Quantum Field Theory, down at the sub-atomic level, cause-and-effect doesn’t even exist. Things just happen; particles pop out of nowhere, annihilate with other particles and disappear back to nothing. Inside the Universe and the Universe are two different playgrounds, one doesn’t play by the other’s rules, so it is entirely unreasonable to equate the two, or to intuit from one onto the other. Concordantly, when accused of scientistic arrogance by a priest who claims that everything including the Universe is contingent (that cause and effect is fundamental), theoretical physicist Sean Carroll wrote, in response to the fathers theological arrogance “causes and effects aren’t really fundamental. It’s the laws of nature that are fundamental, according to the best understanding we currently have…

Quantum Mechanics as a scientific tool for understanding the world is one of the most successful, repeated, and accurate theories ever devised by modern science, and it does not give any of the arguments or conditions to validate the Cosmological Argument, except to say that is immaterial, mechanistic, simple, and non-sentient. For while cause-and-effect will always remain seemingly fundamental within the confines of the Universe, we know—to the best of our abilities—by the light example above, the lack of causality at a subatomic level, and the creation of energy from nothing (see chapter How, Not Why), that the Universe is not bound to the instantiated laws of nature within it.

“Knowledge is knowing the tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting in your fruit salad.” ~ Miles Kington (Journalist)

Moving onto the Judeo-Christian God, which is where a lot of earthly troubles manifest themselves, guised as religion. Before moving forward; I do not mean to insinuate that religious belief is fundamentally irrational, neither god belief, nor, to be fair, unbelief. But clearly two of the three options are wrong, and that’s why recently, there has been a struggle for the intellectual high-ground, which at the very least, is a vast improvement on past debates—shunning, burning, murders when religious institutions held sway, though this still happens in some parts of the world. But human beings, being mostly irrational and partly rational, often have difficulty separating their mental and physical worlds. While the majority of religious (and unbelieving) folk keep their beliefs to themselves, a minority (just as in every subject and field) feel the need to proselytize and otherwise harm society at large due to their belief, mostly in legislation, subsidies, and as such hold back the ascent of man. Though this is not to say they don’t do any good, but big picture, in my opinion, the bad outweighs the good. You don’t need religion to do good things, but you often do need religion to restrict the rights of others in areas of their own well-being: contraception, abortion, gay marriage to name but a few. With that said, moving on, and assuming a God exists for the following section. With our current incomplete scientific picture, there are really only two ways that attempt to explain the Universe. Let’s call this juncture the metaphysical fork in the road. There is the Theistic picture and the Deistic picture, henceforth called Options T and D, both of which attempt to use the Big Bang model to explain God. As you read through them, try to picture which would be more likely, and more worthy of omniscience.

Option T:

God, after waiting billions of years for us to evolve, sends His divine law through His human prophets 197,000 years after the appearance of modern humans. These prophecies are only transcribed into holy books—instead of just sending an unalterable or indestructible holy book—years after their prophets’ deaths, into our own changing, evolving, and context-specific languages. Then He subsequently sends updated prophecies, further sub-dividing those who did believe against each other as well as against those who don’t. These holy books are subjected to differing interpretations, in some cases, numerous mistranslations, and often, selective understanding leading to division, conflict, discrimination, agenda’s of power to use in war and genocide, along with the singular benefits of social cohesion to those who share a similar worldview and perhaps inner peace.

He commits to these holy books, laws and commandments that contradict basic human urges. He also claims to have created us separate from all other creatures, despite planting clear evidence to the contrary—DNA and fossils.

Through these actions, He limits these theologies to a geographic area of no more than a few thousand kilometers in diameter in the Middle East. There is limited or no worldly punishment for breaking His rules but immense personal reward to do so, byway of abusing the trust of those who haven’t broken the rules, often at the expense of others who have no voice or who have decided, through their own choices, to take no part in.

Option D:

He created the Universe and set within it, laws for it to be governed autonomously and without exception: gravity, electromagnetism, chemistry et al. We are forever subjected to these absolute forces, over which none have any control or any choice but to obey.

Neither can any one—or being—accidentally or otherwise mistranslate the intended meaning of such laws without volunteering for Darwinian de-selection, nor have they the power to place themselves above these laws, rendering all objects in the Universe which He created equal before the physical laws under every and all circumstances.

All are forever bound to these laws and they to us, and nothing can or ever will change that.

Which, T or D, is more worthy of an omnipotent, omniscient creator who would be, by the definition of the qualities we ascribe to Him, incapable of mistake? Which option is more compassionate and consistent with omniscient authorship?

Does T look like the reality created by an omnipotent, omniscient, and caring creator? Or does it sound like it was written of the people, by the people, and for the people to satisfy the peoples’ delusions of self-importance and closure? He makes mistakes. He sends three books instead of one. He sends His revelations to a few instead of to all, relegating revelation to hearsay—which would have removed any doubt forever and always. By doing it in the manner He chose, He shows a willful intent to cause the repression, subdivision, misunderstanding, corruption, and wars that inevitability followed. But He loves us, so to some, that somehow makes it better, betraying yet another imperfect human emotion.

And does not option D sound like the majestic masterpiece that the Universe actually is? The mind of a scientist is not needed to recognize the inherent beauty of the Universe or the fallacies inherent in option T; it requires only an open mind, one that is open to the evidence that is inherent all around us. The evidence that He put there, if we are to follow this conclusion through to its logical end.

Going further still, why does the Universe need a God for its creation? By demanding the Universe had a beginning (which it does only by our perspective of time, which, if you recall from high school physics is not absolute, but relative), then a personal God by simple extension of logic, must also have had a beginning at one point—unless, of course! God also has a One True God. The conundrum deepens! If He had no God of his own, how could his intelligence be instantiated? If He is formless, timeless, and causeless, then how can he be intelligent and have thoughts, intent, and purpose, which, by our definitions of them, require constant environmental and internal change? How did he go from zero to sixty, without first passing through one through fifty-nine. None of these questions can be satisfactorily answered.

Option T does not add up under any circumstances. It merely involves passing the buck to God without applying the same scrutiny to God as to creation. As David Duetsch writes in his book, The Beginning of Infinity, a good theory is an explanation that is hard to vary while still describing reality and all religious arguments fail this basic test, because they are too easy to vary, and all too often, fail to describe reality no matter which way they are varied. Though of course, they can describe reality by accident as sometimes happens. Not only that, but during discussions, the goal posts are often moved around and around, back and forth, this way or that way, bending inwards and outwards, all to rationalize why the Universe fits T and not D, or N (Nothing). It’s impossible to even have a basic discussion on this issue, for every time you do, the requirements and reality of the situation is changed to accommodate one side of the debate at the expense of the other—much as if one side of the debate is sitting on the train riding along the infinite railroad track from our previous example could never see the end of.

I remember when I was in kindergarten, I asked my friend, “What is one plus one?” To which he responded “two,” and I countered, “Wrong! It’s eleven” putting the two numeral ones together and feeling smug in the act. A few days later, I would ask again, and if he answered with “eleven” I said, “Wrong! Its window,” drawing the condensed equation inside an enlarged equal sign with a big, stupid smile on my face like I won some idiotic contest. The third time I asked, he said “window,” and I said “two.” First off, to my friend that I played this on, I’m sorry, but I was just a stupid kid—still am stupid sometimes. But if you are the victim of this prank, you cannot win arguing against this logic, yet this is the logic of theism, whether they know it or not, when they try to explain away or gloss over, the paradox of a loving God—or a God at all—with the scientific worldview instead of just recognizing the Universe for what it is, and that God simply is not required or even necessary. (It might still be possible, but to postulate God in spite of what we know today, and what we knew in the past, before all the evidence came to light in the last few decades is to not answer or theorize a good explanation to the question in the first place.) Last of all, just because something is logically valid, does not automatically make it physically valid. I’m often reminded of Zeno’s paradox: Achilles and a Tortoise are in a race, with the tortoise having a head-start. As the race begins, Achilles races to where the tortoise was, but the nifty little tetrapod had moved forward. So Achilles must race forward again, but by the time he reaches where the tortoise was, it has moved forward again. Thus Achilles never overtakes, let alone reaches, the tortoise. Of course, we know that this is merely a logical problem and not a physical one. Empirical—and modern mathematical logic—results would show any capable runner overtaking the tortoise in no time at all, and far surpassing it.

Merely postulating a creator, especially a personal one, adds a burdensome step to the equation, an unsolvable step no less, because of the number of unsubstantiated elements in the claim. Just like I’m adding this sentence, delaying you from finishing my book by a few extra seconds, yet providing no function of any kind, except to some book zealots who take comfort in that fact, because the value of their investment increased. (It would help if this sentence was the first sentence of this book, but then it’d make no sense.)

This brings me finally to a simple explanation of God. What we think of, as God, is simply the anthropomorphized Universe. The God of Spinoza, Einstein called it, after the philosopher Benedict Spinoza, who viewed the Universe and God as one and the same thing. Though I prefer to go one step further and call the latter a mistranslation. But be that as it may, out of one, sprang forth Religion, and out of the other, Physics. Same base, different explanations, one is mostly wrong and ignorantly self-propagating—if it left out the facts and tried only to explain human relationships, purpose, and morality would be one thing, but it tries and fails to make truthful claims about the Universe, and this is why science and religion are in conflict. The other started from the same base of ignorance, but was self-correcting with time and criticism, revealing ever more of objective reality, though never quite reaching it. But the difference between the two foundations seemingly, is semantic. God was a way to bring humankind in touch with the mystery of the Universe, in a way that our brains could understand, namely; a face, a name, emotion, and human-like qualities, but as history has shown us, that romanticized history and explanatory effect has—and continues to be—been woefully mistranslated and sometimes leads to social ills, usually in the form of institutionalized religion.

I believe we’ve gone beyond a need, or at least some have, of personifying the strange, immaterial, and counter-intuitive nature of the Universe. No longer is it rooted in word magic, deception, misdirection, and over-complications. By removing those anthropic layers, what remains is our beautiful, majestic, and seemingly infinite Universe, formerly anthropomorphized to fit our preconceived notions and assumptions—and perhaps evolutionary needs—instead of accepting it for what it is much as we have done since the dawn of civilization, and perhaps even farther back since the invention of language. The Earth was Gaia or Mother Nature. The sea was Poseidon or Neptune. Thunder was the wrath of Zeus or the might of Thor. Winter was Demeter’s sadness and on and on it goes. Each culture had its similar explanations, and each of them was subsequently wrong, or very occasionally, right by accident. Now the Universe is just our Universe.

The Universe is far grander, far more beautiful, and far more exquisite than the feeble mental construct we have of an aging white man who while perfect, infallibly exhibits our full range of imperfect emotions, lacks the foresight to see the ramifications that stem from His own judgments and decisions in regard to the human cost in lives, limbs, and lies—much as we have done to ourselves since the dawn of civilization. It is no great leap to say that the Judeo-Christian God was created in our image, rather than we in His.

This line-of-thinking doesn’t replace the meaning behind God, seeing as how we habitually personify inanimate objects and processes, but gives meaning to Him, or rather, It (the Universe), but elevates it above the aging 3,000-year-old (mis)interpretation removing the influence and subterfuge of religion as the middleman. Our creator is here for all to see, everywhere and always present, in every nook and in every cranny, in all our lives, making up our being, visible through a telescope and under a microscope: everywhere and anywhere you look in this grand design of our Universe.

It’s quite clear that the Abrahamic god was created in our own image, and institutionalized religion morphed, evolved, and wrapped itself around that false concept, capitalizing on the self-importance we exhibit, while in reality, we were created in the image of the Universe (see chapter How, Not Why).

Did God invent humanity? Or did we invent God?” ~ Morgan Freeman (Actor)

By Spinoza’s dictum, there is no distinction between the Universe and God, or at least, shouldn’t be. After all, if the original intent of a god (or gods) was to explain the unknowable, then its meaning is finite in its separation from reality, in a dynamic, knowledge-building society as is ours. We can see a clear progression in the meaning of God from before the common era, to now. At first, prior to the monotheistic religions, nature’s laws arose from nature herself, with Gods managing and keeping the chaos at bay (chaos was assumed to be the default state). Then around the Babylonian Exodus, God became the cause of everything, giving us a special place in his creation. Then Darwin came along and gave us the beautiful theory of evolution, though some then argued that evolution was divinely guided. Then Physics came along and through it; the Big Bang and Inflation, and God became God of the ever-evolving and decreasing Gaps relegated and demoted to ever-decreasing pockets of scientific ignorance. While there will always be more to learn, we can (and I feel need to) trump the psychological need for the Abrahamic god as an end all, be all to understanding our origins and our Universe. While it will never be possible to fully disprove God, with the vagueness and malleability of its attributes (a definition ofttimes cannot even be agreed upon). In that sense, perhaps the best course of action is simply to stop talking about it, him, or she in the context of creation and the Universe. Admittedly, I have not followed such a course. But science has given us an alternative and more plausible explanation.

How our Universe—an immaterial entity—was responsible for our creation, as accidentally inevitable as it may have been and the creation of all and everything that ever was, and came to be is nothing short of a beautiful mystery. We may never know why, but to say a god did it is a poor explanation.

For me, it’s a beautiful and humbling thought. We are part of this Universe and come from it, rather than in spite of it; something that religion claims man must know using the word ‘God’ instead.

A wise man apportions his beliefs to the evidence” ~ David Hume (Philosopher)

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Exploring Meaning, God, and Science

This is a post I had on my other website that I replaced, so I am reposting it here, so it may live again…

A conversation between two friends on meaning, god, deism, the Universe, and a few tangentially-related subjects that sprouted off and grew wings of their own. It clocks in at 11,315 words long, but if you prefer the summary, read only the last two sections.

Enjoy, and we would love to hear anybody’s thoughts on the subject-matter.

Josh:

Hi Foo

Hope all is well with you. Congratulations on getting the book finalized and out there. I watched a video of a lecture today that I thought you might enjoy. The speaker has written a book onthe subject of how there is something from nothing. It touches on recent cosmology with some interesting history on thought and how it has led to todays understanding. My own thought is that he doesn’t really answer how something came from nothing, rather he re-describes “nothing” as a form of quantum something, which to my mind begs why is there a quantum something rather than nothing (perhaps straying into reductio ad absurdum territory). Anyway i thought you may enjoy it.

http://www.openculture.com/2011/09/a_universe_from_nothing_by_lawrence_krauss.html

Fourat:

Thanks, I appreciate it. It’s been a bit of a ride to get it finally finished! I had watched this lecture before, and I loved it. I devoted a chapter to it in my book. I love this question, and I have been thinking about it recently. I think the question is wrong to begin with. Nothing is a concept of our language and our mental constructs we use to express ourselves. Think of making a chair from wood. Before you begin to create the chair, does it exist? Of course not, but the raw material does, the potential for a chair to exist does (probabilistically speaking), and the energy (person) to assemble that chair. But in our day-to-day paradigms, we think we made the chair, and before the chair existed there was nothing. Nothing is an expression of our language, and not an inherent concept of the Universe. Might be a bad example, but I think it makes sense.

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PythonGod

Did God Have a Choice?

A somewhat amusing philosophical problem has popped into my brain, and I wish to explore it in this post. Amusing to me at least, whether it has occurred to others, I’m not sure because I haven’t finished reading the internet (one day, I might), but I’ll jump right into it. The physics of today points (not proves!) to a multi-verse. That is, if ever it is experimentally verified, our universe will not be the only universe that exists, but rather just one amongst an infinite number of universes. In essence, the copernican principle at its grandest scale. This theory, which goes by a few names; string theory and M-theory to name a few, is accounted for in some of our mathematical descriptions of the universe, and we maybe on the verge of paradigm-busting physical evidence to prove it. Now when I say accounted for, what I mean is that it is a logical extrapolation of theories that accurately describe the universe we are in. (The BBC’s “What Happened Before the Big Bang” is an easily digestible primer on this, or this TED talk by physicist Brian C. Greene). Again though, the multiverse is a logical extrapolation of these theories, so when you hear people saying scientists invented the multiverse theory to do away with God, they are mistaken. The multiverse is a prediction of a theory that set out to answer questions about our own universe.

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Jupiter Eclipse

God, Belief, and the Universe, in Context

Over the years, I have often debated on the nature of God and against religion. Over time, my arguments have become more refined (in a roundabout way), but today, a new thought popped into my head. In all my back-and-forth’s (which I’ve finally realized is futile, because people believe what they want, not what is true), I’ve always made my argument in a lack of context. The result being the sabotage of my argument, first by its lack of context, but further still, in its complexity.

Right off the bat, any argument instigated in such a way is crippled. So from now on, if I ever get into such a personal debate again (which I’m thinking not too), it will go something like this:

Since nothing can ever be thought of as certain, even in science, specifically quantum mechanics, which at its foundation, precludes absolute certainty (the highest is 99.9999…%), therefore, we are forced to deal with varying probabilities of certainty, and should tackle the question of God in such a way. So with that being said, and in light of my earlier contextual ambiguities and unnecessary complexity, I have boiled it down to these two questions:

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creation

On Debating Non-Debatable Subjects: God, Creation, and Religion

Last week, among a gathering of friends, we ended up debating for many hours, the subject of creation, religion, and god. It was a lively discussion to say the least, and one I was ill-equipped for, after drinking 10 glasses of wine, and on many occasions, found it difficult to articulate my proper thoughts, much as I imagine, did many of my friends. One rather large mistake we made, was not stipulating a suitable foundation to base our friendly discussion upon, which led to us going around in circles for far too long, as well as relying, far too much on our inter-cranial intuitions, thinking that because we can think certain things, that they must then be granted validity of truth, even in the face of objectivity and even when experimentation says that is not the case. But I want to express what foundation is required for this kind of discussion in order for it to be relevant, to others, as well as any future discussions I get into on the subject, and, somewhat selfishly, articulate my proper thoughts from last night.

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Gun AK

I am an Atheist in a Fox Hole 1/4

There is this silly and ridiculous notion out there that religious folk propagate about their being no atheists in fox holes, and at the moment of death, everybody cries out for a higher power. A silly proposition, and one that attempts to paint atheism with the same brush of irrationality that religion reeks of. Now, at this juncture, I could go on and on about people I’ve never met, and only read about it, and list how they did not pray in what they thought were their last moments, or speculate on atheists who died on what their last words were, but I think it’s better to tell my own near death stories, 4 in total, and how at the moment of truth, I didn’t look to God or even think of him. Not that this will stop religious people using the term, as it makes them feel good, and enlightened.

Due to the length involved of these stories, this post will be divided in 4 parts, so if you don’t want to miss any of them, sign up for email updates right there on the right…

The Road to Baghdad

The year was 2003, I was 18 years old, newly graduated from High School, and missing my formal (Prom) no less. My dad had worked in Baghdad for 6 months, and we were going to visit him. We landed in Jordan after a torturous 14hr flight, and our dad met us there with 2 drivers. We begun the 2nd leg of our journey, a 10 hour drive east to Baghdad. For hours, everything went swimmingly, we were catching up, talking, laughing, listening to music, and occasionally napping. About halfway into the trip, when we were close to the city of Fallujah, which would go on to become the bastion of resistance, and driving along the highway at 100mph (160kmh), I noticed a dark blue BMW making a u-turn from the opposite side of the road. I thought not much of it, but a few minutes later, I noticed my parents started to act nervously as I turned to talk, but I did not yet casually connect the two events.

Both my father and mother repeatedly turned to look backward, and I was at a loss as to why. Then I saw that same BMW speeding up to us and pull up alongside us with a bearded Iraqi man brandishing an AK47 telling us to pull over, and then pulling ever closer to us, effectively closing us in and forcing us to a stop. My first reaction in seeing all this, was to take off my headphones from my newly purchased Discman (I had just upgraded from a Walkman), and put it in the glove compartment for fear of losing it; the stupidity of my youth! I did however have the foresight to roll down my window so the guy wouldn’t break it with the butt of his gun.

So, there we are, in the middle of the Iraqi desert, on a lonely stretch of highway, with myself sitting in the front passenger seat, my parent’s in the middle of the SUV, and my two younger brothers in the back. I watch in slow-motion as the 2 armed, overweight men got out of the BMW, one brandishing an AK47, and the other a 9mm pistol. AKMan comes to my window, and sticks the machine gun against my throat, and pushes it in a little, just to scare me that little extra bit, as if I wasn’t scared enough already. 9mm Man goes to my dad and sticks his gun into his stomach.

This may make you laugh. AKman starts shouting at me in arabic, “eteinie flousek” which translates to “Give me your money!”. With my poor arabic, I heard “shismek”, aka “What’s your name?”. There I am, hundreds of miles from any kind of help, with an AK47 in my throat, being robbed, by an angry arabman yelling at me for my money, and I respond with my name… Repeatedly… “Fourat JANABI, FOURAT JANABI…. FOURAT JANABI!!!”. I wasn’t shouting, but it was not normal speech neither. My dad intervenes here, and tells them I do not speak arabic, and my parents proceeded to give up all our belongings.

The fat bastards even asked my 8 and 15yr old’s brothers for their money, of which they had none. After they had collected everything, they back up, but not before AKman had the idea to check the glove compartment and take my damn discman!! I was heartbroken, and actually got really angry here. I know, stupid, I think I already mentioned how dumb I was, but that’s what put it over the top for me. They left, and that was that. My heartbeat returned to normal after 30-60 minutes, and the event became a memory.

No god, no praying, just a blind primal fear unrelated even to the notion of death which did not occur, and then a materialistic anger over my discman (God my stupidity, but at least I can laugh about it now).

The very next day, I met my auntie for the first time, and we heard that the same men had robbed someone else, though he made a move and they shot him in the hand, took his car and left him there in the desert. My auntie started to cry as if she had known us our whole lives, at the time I was perplexed, but it makes sense now.

This is bonus material. The next morning, when we had travelled to visit our family, my uncle’s heard that a dark blue BMW had surfaced not 15mins away, with three male passengers. “Shit” we thought, and they asked us to go ID them so they could get our stuff back. We drive over there, two of my uncles with AK47′s of their own. My brother and I are shitting ourselves in the back thinking to ourselves, what if a firefight breaks out? Neither of us spoke to each other. We arrived after what seemed an eternity, and lo and behold, a dark blue BMW is there, with three men standing nearby, though we couldn’t get a good look at them. We stopped the car, and my uncles got out, but told us they wouldn’t do anything until we were sure. They opened our windows, and just stood next to the car blending in. We eventually see them, luckily, it was not them, and we went home, both breathing many sighs of relief.

That happened 9 years ago, just 1 year into my Atheism, and just before the country, especially that region descended into horrible and brutal violence.

That’s when I knew I wasn’t bullshiting myself, I was an atheist in a foxhole.

That was my first near death experience, and actually the least craziest one too. The next one shook me to the core, so stay tuned and I’ll get it up in a few days.

Heaven

Wouldn’t Heaven be Boring? [Random Rationality Chapter]

[Free Chapter]

Lets pretend that the Abrahamic god does exist, and that depending upon your Earthly actions, you will be met with a heavenly eternity, or perhaps a fiery one, like myself and perhaps even those 93% of scientists who selfishly work to improve the human quality of life developing new medicines, knowledge and insights into the Universe expanding the tools we have at our disposal.

You lead a good life, you help the poor, you follow the 613 commandments and so on; and upon your Fortunate death you are received at the pearly gates.

How will you spend your first year in heaven? Re-connecting with loved ones perhaps.

How about your first decade? Long walks on cloud 9 picking the brains of Jesus, Abraham, Mohammed, Einstein, Elvis, and perhaps even the big G himself, exploring the vast sanctum of his infinite knowledge using the heavenly version of our own big G; Google.

God = Google? I’m just throwing it out there and seeing what sticks.

How about the first century? Trying all the experiences you were too scared to do while you were a lowly mortal, only to find out the thrill is gone now that Death no longer lingers close by.

What about the next thousand years, and the million after? And then the trillion after that, and the next 10 trillion years after your first big T party? Now what?

I guarantee you one day, you’re going to want to not be there. What could possibly make eternity fun?

If you have ever eaten more than 5 chocolate bars in a row, then you probably know what heaven will feel like it. The first one tastes amazing; by the second your taste buds are a bit desensitized, but it still tastes good, ditto with the third and fourth, until you finally try on a 5th one for size, and it tastes like nothing, just a bland paste while your mouth goes through the motions.

We all had this feeling as kids, and perhaps as teens for the sweeter toothed among us, and even now for myself. But take that feeling, multiply it by a really large number and you’ll get a taste about how boring heaven would eventually get. One day, it will be no different from death.

Does the eternal darkness seem so scary now?

This is chapter 4 from my eBook Random Rationality: A Rational Guide to an Irrational World available on Kindle and Paperback.

Turtles All The Way Down

Does God Have A God?

I consistently come across debates, books, and articles by Dr. William Lane Craig, where he make vain attempts at using science to prove God. I have no doubt that he is a very highly educated man, which can be deduced solely from his use of language, but he has the unfortunate bias of already being convinced of the existence of God before the science even comes along and so extrapolate out his bias for God and as such, does little more than shift around and use big words in eloquent sentences that sound logical, but which are anything but when critically explored. In every debate that I have watched of Craig, his logic and reasoning are almost fool-proof if no prior understanding of science is known, which luckily I have. Slightly off-topic but related. It seems to me, his language is far more linguistically robust (and dare I say, poetic) than that of the majority of the scientists that he debates against and I do believe that this use of language circumvents (at least partly) much of the intellect of the audience at times.  When was the last time you heard of  a scientist whip an audience into a fervor? I need not askwhen the last time you asked a preacher do the same thing, we’ve all seen on it, either on tv or in person.

Consider this example; really the only example that needs refuting and to which I will devote my time too, by Mr. Craig. His first, and singular point in regards to the existence of God in all of his debates is the scientific principle of causality; that this Universe has been caused i.e. it had a beginning at some distant point in the past, and that since causality cannot in essence cause an effect before it begins to exist, therefore there must be an external cause, by a transcendent being he calls God. However, in invoking that God created the Universe vis-a-vie cause and effect, he refuses to go one step further and ask ‘What caused God?’, and makes the assumption that God is timeless by way of a few logical and philosophical calculations. In doing this, he thinks that this notion explains the existence of God, and that it is more sound than not having a god.

My first thought when presented with this reasoning was, what is the difference between the Universe creating itself, as opposed to being created by an external personal entity? Well, for me, the answer is word magic. Especially when it is within the scientific laws of physics that a Universe can actually be spontaneously created from nothing according to Stephen Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design.

This theistic notion of beginning in itself doesn’t make much sense from a scientific perspective (no matter how much Craig wants it too). As anyone who studied high school physics will recall, time is relative, and not an absolute function of the Universe. That is, to different observers in different places around the Universe, time is a different and personal thing, much as our own thoughts are. There is also nothing in the laws of physics that expressly say time moves forward, it is free to move backwards as well and I’m sure there are Universes in which time does indeed move backwards. Therefore, the concept of time and events having a definite beginning and a definite end cannot be assumed to be valid, and Dr. Craig’s first assumption is that the Universe has a finite past. Although the Universe seems to have a beginning from our perspective, that does not mean that was the beginning, nor that there was nothing before it.

According to Stephen Hawking, the 4th dimension of time’s inception was as a spatial dimension, this occurred when the Big Bang was small enough to be governed by both the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Theory, which eventually morphed into what we know as time. So, this being the case, prior to the morphing of the 4th spatial dimension into a temporal dimension, how could one define a beginning? For all we know (and perhaps more likely), it could exist like that for infinity, putting into question the notion of a finite past. Time is in essence, the material rate of change. Without a temporal dimension, can something be said to begin, that is to change from nothing to something, and then change continuously?

Pursuant to this, many scientists today are moving on from the notion of the big bang being the beginning, and there is tantalizing physical, as well as lots of theoretical evidence to suggest that we live in a multiverse, and our Big Bang and Universe are just small events and places in this Multiverse. According to the theory, there may be upwards 10^500 Universe’s, and ours is but one among them. This is a number beyond any notion of imagination. As Stephen Hawking put it in The Grand Design, if you could count one integer per millisecond since the Big Bang, which is a thousand times a second for 13.72 billion years. By now, you would have only reached 10^20.

Since time is merely a dimension, and perhaps, not an intrinsic property of Multi-verse, than the issue of where did everything come from, or rather, what cause everything to spring forth, becomes in a sense, irrelevant. If time doesn’t exist outside of our Universe, than what can be said of existence? It has been found that the total energy of the Universe, when added all together, is exactly zero. No word magic or tricks, literally ZERO. Does Cause and Effect still hold sway in causing into existence that which cancels itself out mathematically. What is true is that there is a lot more to be learnt, and we are still a ways off from fully understanding the Universe, how it came to be, and the greater multi-verse. I have made a few assumptions in my reasoning, but those assumptions (I like to think) are logical and will be what comes to pass. If that is not the case, then I am content with changing my argument based upon the new evidence at hand if it ever shows up. Something those that argue for the existence of God never do.

Naturally, once this new theory, M-theory becomes verified, validated and accepted, Craig will simply re-arrange and re-purpose his argument and move his transcendent cause back a few steps to suit his already defined and unchangeable notion of God, and twist the science in trying to solidify his conclusion, and persuade others who aren’t very well-versed in scientific matters on the nature of existence.

According to this logic, merely extended a few extra steps (though he attempts to explain it away), God, the cause of our Universe, must Himself have a cause, and though he wishes it away with philosophical statements of grandeur, timelessness, and personality, doesn’t make it so. So with this in mind, perhaps, God, like a majority of people on this insignificant speck of dust flying through space, believes in a God to explain His own creation, and the conundrum ever spirals upwards, each God believing in an ever greater God.

How different is this analogy to that little old lady who stood up in Bertrand Russell’s lecture, after he had just finished explaining how the Earth revolves around the Sun, which in turn revolves around the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, and said that everything he just said was nonsense, that the Earth is flat and actually supported on the back of a turtle. To which he replied, “What is the turtle standing on?” too which she countered that it rests upon the back of another turtle which rests upon another turtle, and so on into infinity. I guess God is a turtle… She was just making stuff up that best agreed with her philosophical intuitions, much as Dr. Crag does at the intersection of theology, philosophy, and science where things get very, very murky.