Searching for the gap
In this post we examine the plasticity of the god-notion theists have organized around the gaps in science.
Those of you that read previous posts of mine know by now that I’m a ‘life-er’. Apart from one incident when I was younger I never embraced religion. As Tim Michin would say, I was lucky, I didn’t pull myself up by my bootlaces to this level of rationality, my mother and teachers did; some of them were theists, one was even a Catholic nun. There is perhaps in me a level of ingratitude towards some of them that I evolved into an anti-theist, Dawkins-style. It is not intended, I even regret the implicit condemnation that comes with choosing a path many of my boothlacers would not take. A man has to follow his own conviction at some point. Some of my ‘teachers’ are wrong to believe in a higher power. They do not have sufficient indication to assume such a reality and, by contrast, there is sufficient explanation for the phenomenon that is religion itself to account for it.
The argument that there must be ‘something more’ since religion has always, in some form, been around, is therefore void. Combine this with the fact that history predates all existing religions and with the fact that all religions have demonstrated misconceptions on either the temporal dimension of reality or the spacial ones. In other words, paradigms that claimed to give us an explanation about everything have failed either to document the enormous expanse of space we find ourselves in, or the absurd long time that this space has been around. This is strange considering only a handful of religions in history do not attempt at explaining our origins. It is weirder still for so many people to adhere to religions that have so gravely underestimated the reality we take for granted today. Surely an all-knowing, omni-present being could have done better?
Religions al adhere to one rule, they never venture away of what the society they start in knows, is able to make or can construe. The mere concept of protons and electrons would have allowed for divine commands such as : ‘Do not make cans from aluminum, this process is too energy intensive and creates massive waste compared to the usefulness of the end product.’ That would have been a clear demonstration of superb wisdom. Yet we have to make do with ‘honor mother and father’, ‘ don’t eat pig’, ‘pick a day, call it Friday, then say I ordered you to eat fish that day, even though you could have named another day Friday and my entire divine command is really meaningless that way’.
There is no denying that the more we know the less of what we used to think stands up against scrutiny, religion suffers greatly from this. But those that carefully read previous posts know that I do not think this stress will eventually be fatal for religion. While I think we should and we could abolish it, like ‘Apartheid’ or slavery (in some parts of the world at least, arguably not in many), history tells us religions act like the quanta in elemental particles. They can appear only in certain ‘flavors’. A religion is like a person trying to remain standing on the same spot. You push and he will bend a little but refuse to budge. Stop pushing and he restores to the original position. If the pressure of pushing is too great to remain on the same footing the man moves his feet to a new position of balance. Yes, he might admit his last position became untenable, that unfortunately he was on the wrong footing for so long, but now he has found the right footing and he has decided not to budge, never mind what stress your new facts place on his position.
In the same way religions are conservative and they try to retain their original position. When that position becomes untenable they die (but not before having put their fingers down their ears singing ‘I can’t hear you, lalalala!,’- as Dawkins would say). Their churches are vacated and reused for other purposes and their ‘flock’ moves to another quanta-strata, to another layer of religion that, since it was a recent variant, can claim its newly discovered ‘age-old’ truths correspond with everything scientists have discovered. Tied to the things they claim that are ‘essentially correct’ soon things will be coupled that are ‘without basis’, ‘wrong’ and even ‘not even wrong’. And when pressured with the facts they will bend a little. They might even apologize for -our misunderstanding of their covering up of- ongoing cases of child-molesting on an industrial scale, because naturally we don’t know: GOD’s. TRUE. LOVE! But since religions are essentially group-think and politics continued with other means, truth and facts must take a back seat to an unwavering defense of the original footing.
That’s the thing with religion it cannot [admit to] be a little wrong since at its very core it claims to have a source that is without fault. Errors can only be admitted in the human servants of the divine and then still only sporadically(since God can’t be declared absent while they did anything they did some of it will rub off on to God and need a ‘mysterious ways’/’Divine plan’ justification.). There can never be any fault with the teachings themselves, even though they say rebellious teenagers should be stoned, even though they claim salt water and fresh water don’t mix, even though they claim a woman was a virgin both after conception as well as after birth, even though they claim there is a huge aquarium of water above the flat-earthly realm.
This is in stark contrast for instance with myself who is wrong all the time. I would say this is infinitely better than ‘never right’ but still it is nothing to boast about. Only yesterday I was in this meeting where I thought ‘You @ssh*les are not going to admit that either of the numbers in those files is wrong’. I have learned to be prudent though so I actually said “ I’m having trouble comparing the numbers in your two files, I can’t seem to find the match.” Guess what : I had the wrong file, I made a mistake. Because I was prudent I get to walk away without dying since I beforehand took into account that I might have to move my footing. I was convinced of being right but I allowed for corrections ‘just in case’. Since the past had shown me fallible. The fact that throughout history religion periodically fails is proof of their very human origins, not of a divine one.
But here is the rub: while there are many things religions claim that are actually scientific claims, when things get under pressured they start separating the two realms. The other day I was watching a youtubed debate between Richard Dawkins and the highest ranking Australian bishop and the latter actually admitted that man evolved from lower level animals and that this included an gradual evolution of the Soul. This was off course not a spontaneous statement but in reply to some poignant questions from both Dawkins as the debate-host. ‘Wait a second’ said the host, ‘does that mean we mustn’t think the garden of Eden and Adam and Eve is an actual true story?’ ‘Well it’s a religious story told to tell us something, it is not intended as a literal truth, it’s a religious one.’ The cleric responded. To which Dawkins in turn responded that the consequences of ‘original sin’ that came from this ‘religious’ truth were none-the-less felt through-out much of literal history.
But that’s what happens, when the facts are so abundantly proven occasionally you will get some authority or lesser representative of the faith that tries to mix the proven facts with unfoundedly adhered to notions, wanting them to be accepted simultaneously. Like in this debate suddenly the story of Adam and Eve becomes ‘allegorical’. They often lack the intelligence (not thinking ahead like a chess-player) to beforehand see how saying this will break official doctrine in three separate places. If Adam and Eve are allegorical and evolution is true, did Genesis just go out of the window since, ‘single-day-creation of man’ just fell to the facts? What you most often get is a quick back peddling into vague purgatory where both contradicting statements are simultaneously true and further elaboration is out of the question.
But I wonder. What do these people actually believe? Obviously, though they defend it, they don’t think the Bible is literally true. We are talking cardinals and bishops here, these are the guys that want YOU to think the bible is literally true. But for themselves obviously some more advanced and complex, very private and very individual notion is actually adhered to. I’m sure they never EVER talk about it amongst themselves. What they need is the vehicle of the official doctrine to delegate them into a role of authority; a role they (like myself) could not obtain in the domain of science, into a role that will allow them to mentally masturbate to the actual things they believe in. They do not talk about what they actually believe in as this would be professional suicide; they know the other one has his own set of believes which will not agree with theirs. Some will believe in the virginity of Mary, others thinks it’s “allegorical”. Some will believe in the flood, others know the world lacks the needed water for this and that it’s “allegorical”. Still others like God a lot but know too much about Roman occupation to believe the ‘jews killed Christ’ meme, in fact they might not even think Christ existed, it was meant …“allegorically”. The differences between these sets of believe is the things the believer, inadvertently came to know and accept.
If the concept of (the Christian)God was a piece of string in the late Middle Ages by the end of that period is was a broken piece of string. It was composed of different pieces whether you were a protestant or a catholic. Then Copernicus, Galilei, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Sagan and Dawkins lead charges accompanied by many, MANY colleagues and soon the pieces of string seemed like they’d be hammered by a machinegun. Just pieces of wool remained of the string that had existed. In fact so little was left we started referring to the parts as ‘gaps’ since the part of mythology what was not rebutted or rendered implausible by some explanation of science was just a gap in the body of the scientific record.
Questions like :
They are still up for grabs and it is largely around these breaches that religion still cloths. On the one hand you could say this is justified. If it is not scientifically explained ANY explanation might still be correct. God may actually exist and despite all the things we might have gotten wrong about him/her it may very well be that the ‘Big Bang’ had a supernatural initiator. I don’t think it is very likely that such a powerful intelligence would limit itself to determining some initial conditions leaving everything else to determinism and chance. But even this reasoning of mine contains many unnecessary assumptions. God need not be a self-conscious all-powerful entity like official doctrine says he (no ‘she’ here!) is. Very devout individuals often proclaim such beautiful new-age religion-like notions as ‘God is nature’, ‘God is love’.
Such metaphors for God might as well say ‘God is physics’ which most atheist would agree with as it’s ‘not even wrong’. The problem however with all this individual God-molding is that it keeps the concept alive in spite of massive evidence and very small probabilities. You might corner a theist, even an archbishop, into admitting God did not in fact make everything in seven days but that this is an allegorical explanation for how he actually did it through (very ‘laid-back’, lazy and wastefully inefficient) natural processes taking 14 billion years. You can bet your paycheck they will be back in seven days mumbling ‘Amen’ to some statement about ‘how God made man on the third day in his own image to have a relationship with him’.
In the end one can squeeze a concept of ‘God is love’ through a hole no bigger than quantum uncertainty or Planck-length, assuring that physics will never close the loop and disprove whatever notion of God you may happen to be defending at the time. It is not however what we would call intellectually honest nor will it assure there is a dial-tone on your phone when you try to call 911 (112 in Europe). If God is love, then seriously: may God bless each and every one of you!