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.
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.
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.
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.
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)