Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Living in God's test tube.

I follow no religion. I have no evidence to suggest there is a God, and no proof there isn't. Just want to make that clear.

Now, to borrow an Americanism and turn it into decent English - I'm about to get all religious on your bottom.

I watched this rather dull speaker who nonetheless made interesting points. It made me theorise (science-speak for 'think a bit'). The video is 20 minutes so you'll need some time to hear him. It's not vital to the rest of the post.

First, an assumption. Nothing wrong with that, science does it all the time. Let us assume that there is a God. If you're determined there isn't then you might as well skip the rest because without that assumption, none of the rest matters.

So. The way Genesis is written. man appears to be an afterthought. God makes light, the universe, the Earth, plants a garden, makes animals and then thinks 'Hey, I know. I'll make little beasties who look like me. They can look after the garden'. In other words, we're not the highest species. We're the gardeners.

Sounds unlikely for a supreme being. Surely the creation of humanity was the whole point, and the rest would have been built to support that? Otherwise, why bother with religion? Gardeners don't worship their bosses.

Second (anthropic) assumption, then. God made all of it so he could have people around.

Okay. First problem, why make so much of it? Why all those stars, all those planets, all those galaxies? Why not just this one solar system? In fact, what do we even need the other planets for?

Third assumption (one already in place viz. Christianity): God gave us free will.

In that case, God can't reveal himself. If he does, free will is gone. We don't have free will to deny something we can see. I can't deny the existence of China because I've seen it. I can deny the existence of Belgium, even though it's silly, because I haven't. I don't, in case you're wondering.

So how to work this? If God wants beings with free will, specifically with the freedom to choose whether or not to believe in him, he can't do anything that would prove his existence. Once proven, pop goes free choice.

Now I'm going to blaspheme. I'm going to rewrite Genesis. I hear a mass hiss of breath sucked through teeth, even now.

One. God is the only intelligence in a blank universe. The theory of Boltzmann brains makes this at least, scientifically possible. I'm not going to explain it here.

Two. God makes some company. The angels. They're okay, but a bit dull. They keep worshipping, all the time, and never think for themselves. Why would they? They know God exists because they can see him. God decides he wants to make beings with the freedom to choose their own path.

Three. This God has full control of the nothing around him. Not much to do, there's no 'space' and no 'time' yet. So he pops off the big bang and starts time and space rolling. Note: since God was there before time and space, he's not constrained by either.

Four. Does he just pop off this big bang without any sort of plan? I doubt it. Remember, he wants the creatures to have free will. He can't be obvious. So he sets physical laws for this universe, laws that allow his creatures to live but that don't, in themselves, prove he made them. The other stars, planets, galaxies, are there so we can't assume we're special in any way. It's up to each of us, individually, to make the choice. Besides, in order for the physical laws to make sense, the rest of it has to be there.

Five. Now he makes the stars, within the parameters he's set. Planets too, again not violating the laws he's set. For the sun to burn long enough, it has to be nuclear. It puts out a lot of radiation. The Earth has to be pretty close in order to be warm enough, but needs a magnetic field to deflect the radiation. In order to have a magnetic field, it has to have a molten core, but that means earthquakes, volcanoes etc. will happen. Can't be helped. God has to hide behind the physical laws because if he proves his existence, there's no longer any point to what he's doing.

Six. Water, land, plants, animals, birds, and finally man. At first, God treats Adam and Eve like pets but he knows they're going to disobey him. He made them that way, and made the tree of knowledge to give them a reason to be naughty. Once they eat from it, he makes a show of being quite miffed and sends them into the world. As intended from the outset.

See, he can't prove his existence but he has to give them a start. A few clues so they know he's there, but never enough to prove it. Adam and Eve saw God, but nobody else did. My mother claimed to have seen a UFO. Do I believe her, or do I think she was mistaken? So it was with the later humans. Early ones (according to the Bible) spoke directly with the Big Fella, but later ones did not. Denied the experience, they had to choose whether to believe or not.

Seven. About now, some of the angels are feeling a bit left out of things. They decide to take a closer look at these new beings and find that some are a bit of all right. A few glasses of communion wine later and there are half-breeds--Nephilim--around.

Eight. God says 'Oi! What are you doing?' and boots the offenders out. They hang around Earth, resentful, spotty and wearing hoodies and cause trouble wherever they can.

Fast forward to today.

God can't interfere in tsunamis, hurricanes and floods because to do so, he'd have to prove his existence. That would ruin the whole point of the experiment. I think in scientific terms so my thoughts come out that way. Once an experiment is set up and running, interfering in it will nullify the result. The next assumption is that God is thinking that way too. He might not be happy with how it's going but if he interferes, the whole thing is ruined.

On the basis of the assumptions made within this rambling thought experiment, God set up mankind with the choice to believe in him or not. That's the experimental hypothesis: Left to themselves, man will reach the conclusion that there must be a creator and that in order to achieve peace, they must let him run things. If said creator shows up, the experiment is over.

The Inquisition, world wars, the Holocaust, fundamentalist terrorists of all types, must have had him gnashing his teeth in frustration. He could not stop it, because to do so would destroy free choice and therefore terminate his experiment with the hypothesis untested.

On the other hand, God equally cannot cure the sick, save people from disaster, respond to prayer or find you that parking space when you need it. Non-interference means non-interference. No exceptions. In an experiment, the experimenter can't say 'Oh, I'll just tweak this little bit. It won't matter.'

Yes it will. Butterflies and gales come to mind.

If God exists, and (for the reasons outlined) can't interfere to save thousands from major disasters, then he can't interfere to perform any miracle, no matter how small. He has given the clues already. The experiment is in progress. Now he has no option but to watch and see how it turns out.

I guess if there's a moral to all this, it must be that whether there's a God or not, we're on our own.

At least for the duration of the experiment.


Southern Writer said...

Wow. You have a mom? Who'da thunk it?

I'm beginning to think that someone is trying to tell me something (for the past week or so). I've been reading Eric Clapton's autobiography, and he talks about his faith in God, then my sister sent me a link to pictures in space, including the Pillars of Creation, and on that same site (MSN / The Today Show), there's a video about UFO's. Then I come here, and you're talking about the same things.

I don't put much stock in the Bible. I used to think the Easter story was a parable for reincarnation, but after seeing the video called Zeitgeist that I sent you a few months back, the astrological explanation makes sense to me, as well. I do believe in God, but I think we've got our concepts of Him (or Her) all wrong. Your explanation is as good as any I've heard.

btw, with your mention of UFO's, I had to go look on YouTube for the one that hovered over Phoenix when I was living there. It was quite the sight. The former governor of Arizona is now saying he believes. I'm sending you links privately to all the stuff I've been looking at since reading your post. I've been fooling around way too long this morning.

And seriously, you have a mother?

tom sheepandgoats said...


Belief in God is preliminary, to be sure, but I’m not sure how meaningful it is in itself. After all, people in China all believe in China. People in Belgium all believe in Belgium. Yet some are statesmen and some are scoundrels.

As regards God’s dilemma: “If God wants beings with free will, specifically with the freedom to choose whether or not to believe in him, he can't do anything that would prove his existence:” Until relatively recently in human history, life itself was taken as proof of God’s existence, as well as the various physical laws and circumstances of our environments, so that scientists of Newton’s time regarded their own discoveries merely as furnishing explanations for how God did this or that. Even when evolution theory was extended beyond the well-known principles of animal husbandry, for the most part it was only seen as insight into God’s methods, not evidence that he did not exist.

I’m not really sure why views have changed in the past several decades, but I suspect the factors have more to do with emotion than reason.

tom sheepandgoats said...

BTW, thanks for calling to my attention that New Scientist article re transfusions. In a day or two I hope to slap something online about it.

Romulus Crowe said...

SW - Yes, I was born in the conventional way. In a bad mood.

The thing I remember about that Zeitgeist video, which seemed to be trying to disprove spiritual things, was the way it linked all its 'debunking' to astrological information. Including the switch from matriarchal to patriarchal society with the onset of Taurus, wasn't it?

I remember thinking 'Hey, aren't you trying to disprove all this? You're not doing well here.'

Thing is, none of it disproves the existence of a god. All it shows is different interpretations, and when those different interpretations are similar then it's a very weak debunking indeed.

They suggest that the stories were handed down but can't prove it.

If there is a God, then (and I think Tom might agree) he's not the Santa lookalike on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. He's something we have never seen before, something science has yet to find a way to measure. Therefore God can't be studied by current scientific method and the best thing science can do is leave the matter alone until we find a way to examine it.

He might even turn out to be that 'dark matter' everyone's looking for. You never know.

And yes - I come complete with mother, father and even a brother, but I don't talk about him. Except to say, he's fluent in at least five languages and has never said anything worth hearing in any of them.

Romulus Crowe said...

Tom - that's why I can't understand the current fight between evolution and creation. Darwin was a devout Christian, he saw his theory as an explanation of how God manipulated life, not as disproof of God. Sure, he was villified for suggesting that people might have evolved from apes, but in actual fact he never said that. It was one of those 'political character assassinations' that scientists do to each other all the time. Darwin said that species can develop new species. Other scientists at the time extrapolated that in order to discredit him.

Current evolutionary thinking also does not say that man evolved from apes. It suggests that man and apes developed from a common ancestor. Apes aren't ancestors. They can't be because they're still here.

As I've said, evolution does not disprove creation. All it says is that life adapts to a changing world, which is what you'd expect a creator to build in to his creation.

I think it's only the 'literal seven-day creation' that causes problems (I know you don't have that) and, to a lesser extent, the 6000-year issue.

If God created man on the sixth day, and 'day' isn't literal, there's plenty of room for dinosaurs etc in the first five 'days'. Science says they died out before humans appeared. If the 'days' aren't literal, then there's no problem there.

I admit I watched the human genome project with interest because I'd have laughed for days if part of that DNA had said 'copyright God, day 6'.

Sure, it would have changed my view of the world dramatically but it would certainly have been worth it.

Romulus Crowe said...

Forgot to mention - if any of what I said in that post is true (no guarantees) then it blows the 'God of the gaps' argument.

That argument states that religion will plug any gap in scientific knowledge with 'God did it'.

In this scenario, the gaps are just gaps. God would not allow us to find proof that he 'did' it.

Another consequence of this thinking - if my theoretical god appeared before the Big Bang and started the expansion of space-time, then he'd expand along with it. He wouldn't see a difference from his perspective. At any time, the universe would be entirely visible to this God as if it was still just a tiny speck. So, omnipresent? Theoretically possible. In effect, the Boltzmann brain of this theoretical god surrounds and contains the universe, no matter how big it gets, because he's increasing at the same rate. To him, it doesn't change size.

Just some random thoughts. Could be entirely wrong but then thinking's what I get paid for so I like to keep in practice.

Anonymous said...

Touch late seeing this one, but the god postulated here has one big difference from traditional ones- he's not omniscient. Otherwise he would have known how everything panned out, and wouldn't have needed to bother actually doing it. It must be a bugger being omniscient.

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