Saturday, January 07, 2006

Dreams Beneath The Tamarind Tree

After my post Clipping an Angel's Wings, I received a comment from still amazed, which follows.

I welcome such comments about these big topics, and rather than let these thoughts disappear into the ephemeral distance of Blogger Comments, I hope still amazed will not mind that I have brought it back into a main post.
still amazed said...

Sorry to be so late in the day on this one, but would it really make no difference at all if there were a creator? Wouldn't an objective scientific mind be the least be curious about how it all got started and from whence it all came -- if it came from whence at all? Isn't the Big Bang Theory an attempt to explain how and where it all started? Why would anyone have come up with such a theory except out of scientific curiousity? Has anyone ever calculated the probability that all that science describes in the universe (or is it a multiverse that we live in?) could have resulted from random interaction matter and energy?

Here's a probability argument, only in relation to the probability that a single living cell could result at random. (The argument is not mine mind you; I am obviously not smart enough to advance this one): The probability of the chance formation of a hypothetical functional ‘simple’ cell, given all the ingredients, is acknowledged to be worse than 1 in 10 raised to the 57800th power. This is a chance of 1 in a number with 57,800 zeros. It would take 11 full pages of magazine type to print this number. To try to put this in perspective, there are about 10 raised to the 80th power (a number with 80 zeros) electrons in the universe. Even if every electron in our universe were another universe the same size as ours that would ‘only’ amount to 10 raised to 160th power electrons. (Read that last sentence carefully.) That makes 10 raised to the 57800th power a very big number.
still amazed: Thank you for your considered response. There's a good question there, and some bad science.

Would it make a difference if there was a creator? That's a reasonable question. We should ask that question. As a question.

But there are many problems associated with just supposing there is a creator and trying to make your world view fit in with that. For one thing, there are hundreds of different creation stories from all over the world and from all periods of history. Even Scientology has a creation story. So which creator is the real creator? From where do we derive the tools to make that decision? (It doesn't count to say your creator told you so; everyone can say that).

Science, if practiced properly, doesn't negate a creator; scientific reasoning just says there's no evidence to suggest that it is necessary to make that assumption. Mystery is just not enough. There are a lot of mysterious things that we don't feel the need to attribute to supernatural beings. And many things that were once considered mysterious, we now understand better because we've thought rationally and carefully about them. (That reason alone should make you wary of attributing mystery to God.*).

Another problem with just supposing there is a creator has to do with where you stick that creator on a timeline. Once upon a time people believed that the world was created pretty much 'as is' a few thousand years ago. We can now easily demonstrate that that just isn't so. So the creator has moved back through the mists of time, to keep in step with scientific observation. The latest incarnation of this is the rather erroneously-named Intelligent Design, which accepts that, yes, there is such a thing as evolution (an admission that would have once been heretical) but claims that it only works to a point. The perceived 'slack' is taken up by the creator. All this re-arranging of the goal-posts just completely smacks of human-ness.

Now, your bad science: the statistical example you use is flawed on many levels, not the least of which is a smoke-and-mirrors trick with the big numbers. Yes, it sounds impressive, but you're using a very faulty piece of post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning. It is often offered up to impress people.

Where does your logic fail? With the assumption that because this is the way things are, that this is therefore the only outcome. Calculating the odds of one exact outcome of a series of events is very explicitly not the same as calculating the possible outcomes of a series of events. This is an example of how people get easily confused by probability, and why slot-machine manufacturers and lottery companies make so much money.

To use numbers to say "Wow, look at what a whole lot of random events produced! Us!" is wrong in at least two ways.

In the first case, lots of evolutionary experiments, over a time period unimaginable to our human way of experiencing time, have produced literally billions of outcomes, and those are only the ones we know of. Evolution has enabled everything from slime-moulds, through trilobytes, allosaurs, water beetles, termites, coral reefs and wildebeest, to humpback whales. Your single cell example is meaningless - there have, through the millennia, been countless numbers of different kinds of cells, and cell-like adaptations. Not just one. And that doesn't even include the probably billions of billions of failures. Evolution is an imperfect tinkerer. Your example is like pointing at a person on a bicycle and saying "Wow, what are the odds of seeing that particular guy, wearing that exact red scarf, on that exact model of bicycle riding down this exact street in London on a Tuesday in December?" Of course, they are ENORMOUS odds. You would not put a wager on such an event happening. Nevertheless, when you see that guy on his bicycle zip past, you don't scream "It's a miracle!" Why? Because it isn't a miracle unless you consider it out of context and after the fact.

Another way in which your example is imperfect is subtle and needs some knowledge of mathematics and chemistry to grasp well. It is also a fairly cutting edge idea but evidence is accumulating rapidly which speaks in its favour.

It is this: evolution (both physical and biological) has a high degree of randomness inherent in it, but it is not entirely random. Very clever people like Ian Stewart, Stephen Wolfram and Paul Davies have suggested that evolution (and indeed, many other kinds of natural processes) is expedient and exploits certain kinds of physical properties inherent in the mathematical structure of the universe. In other words, evolution conserves effort by making use of atomic properties and simple rules, and for reasons we are only just now starting to understand, complexity arises from these simple states.

To relate it to your example, a cell forms because, over a long period of time, certain kinds of inherent physical tendencies (like surface tension, molecular lattice structure and forces inside atoms) are exploited by random processes. Complexity builds rapidly from these simple conditions in a perplexing way. But it's only perplexing because the calculation capability of our brains is not able to comprehend it, in much the same way as you or I can't really imagine ten million years of time, or three hundred light-years of distance. Crucially, though, we are slowly beginning to understand more of the mechanism by which life evolves by careful observation and study. Where there was once 'God', there is now more understanding. And this pattern gets repeated through the ages. No wonder gets removed by this understanding, nor amazement. Just superstition.

Now, the really Big Question. Why should the universe be striving toward life? That's a mystery. A big mystery. Science doesn't know. Science doesn't pretend to know either. Science says "Let's find out! It's a great adventure!" And we move forward and find out more.

You can, if you wish, stick God in right back there and say - God made all those laws and that's why it's so. But it's a barren thought. Why not say, instead, that God made everything yesterday including all your memories up until that time? It's just as valid a speculation. There is no way that we can usefully process either of those things. If it makes you comfortable to believe that the mathematics of the universe was written in stardust-peppered ink on a coal black nothingness in the very beginning of time, then that's OK. It's just that there is no reason to suppose that it's so.

still amazed: May I suggest you read some of the writing of Paul Davies, a scientist who has won the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religious Thought. Professor Davies is a thoughtful, erudite and deeply philosophical scientist. A proper scientist. He is a scientist who is asking the questions you want scientists to ask. And coming up with some answers. That might be the hard part for some people.

*Some things that were once considered mysterious and in the realm of gods: the Sun's movement across the sky; epilepsy; the regular flooding of the Nile Delta; dinosaurs; sneezing.


Anonymous Pil said...

Now when I am cornered in the street or at my front door and I cannot coherently retaliate at no notice, I will direct the accoster to this post.


January 07, 2006 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Universal Head said...

Every time I think you're pretty wise, you gobsmack me by being even wiser. What Pil said. Nice work sir.

I think we need more erudition of this nature, because I for one am getting pretty sick and tired of being battered around the face with people's personal beliefs, of whatever persuasion - Scientology to Christianity, Islam to Judaism. Religion is again being allowed to sneak into politics, especially in the US, and anyone with an iota of historical knowledge will tell you that does not augur well for personal freedom.

I am immediately wary of anyone who thinks they are qualified to tell me what I should think. Personally, I'd prefer to just live my life trying to be as good a human being as I can, without trying to force other people to accept my way of thinking. If only some 'religious' folk could do the same, the world would be a better place.

January 08, 2006 12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You maintain that science is about evidence and proof. You maintain that there is no evidence for existence of God or a creator. Let us begin, for the sake of argument, with evolution as an explanation of the existence of life. Let's assume that evolutionary theory postulates, as you say it does, that "a cell forms because, over a long period of time, certain kinds of inherent physical tendencies (like surface tension, molecular lattice structure and forces inside atoms) are exploited by random processes." No one has every duplicated that series of events. Hence, it is not proven. Hence, it remains theoretical. Yet you reject the existence of God because, in your mind, there is no evidence that God exists. He is unproven. Is there no evidence?

The understandably revered Paul Davies maintains that science can explain the emergence of life by the application of the laws of nature that govern the universe: "The origin of life and consciousness were not interventionist miracles, but nor were they stupendously improbable accidents. They were, I believe, part of the natural outworking of the laws of nature, and as such our existence as conscious enquiring beings springs ultimately from the bedrock of physical existence-those ingenious, felicitous laws."

Mr. Davies answer begs the question. Where did those laws come from? They occured randomly? No, the universe as we know it would not exist but for the "laws" uncovered by science. To quote Mr. Davies: "If we could twiddle a knob and change the existing laws, even very slightly, the chances are that the universe as we know it would fall apart, descending into chaos. Certainly the existence of life as we know it, and even of less elaborate systems such as stable stars, would be threatened by just the tiniest change in the strengths of the fundamental forces." It all got started, it all continues by and because of the laws of nature. And from whence came those laws?

Aren't we back at the beginning? Science tells us that the universe consists of space, time, matter, and energy, and that space, time, matter, and energy came into being simultaneously with the Big Bang. Marvelous. At its bottom, science concludes that there was a beginning of the universe. Darn.

The question remains: How did all get started? Hawking says quantum physics explains the Big Bang, because quantum physics allows for spontaneous events. No Creator is necessary. Fine. Then quantum physics just existed? Why, because it had to? Where is the evidence for that? To say that "laws" of quantum physics explain the present universe, where it originated and how it came to be, is to accept that quantum physics MUST exist as a governing "law of the universe". Because it exists, it must exist? Is that science or sophistry? If that is the explanation, then science has no explanation. That little failure does not diminish science. It merely acknowledges that the conclusion that we are here because the laws of nature explain that a truly spontaneous event could have occured in which space, time, matter and energy all came into being at one time is, at its core, tautological. It is to argue that the laws of nature govern the universe because the laws of nature govern the universe.

Changing directions, here is an interesting dilemma: Mr. Davies feels compelled to find a purpose for it all. Why? Why does anyone need to find a purpose for it all? If Mr. Davies is correct, life and consciousness were compelled to come into existence by the laws of the universe. If so, then the elements of consciousness must also be compelled, and so must the seemingly universal determination to find purpose for existence. Yet Mr. Davies admits that "If the universe were rerun a second time, there would be no solar system, no Earth, and no people." At its bottom, that means that you and I are here randomly. If our existence is random, then what is the point? Does there have to be a point? Well, Mr. Davies wants his existence to have some point, purpose, or meaning-- apparently -- because he cannot accept the conclusion of his brother scientist that, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." Why can't we leave it there? What's the problem with that conclusion?

Mr. Davies has a problem with that conclusion, "To me, the contrived nature of physical existence is just too fantastic for me to take on board as simply 'given.' It points forcefully to a deeper underlying meaning to existence. Some call it purpose, some design. These loaded words, which derive from human categories, capture only imperfectly what it is that the universe is about. But that it is about something, I have absolutely no doubt." And later, "Whatever the universe as a whole may be about, the scientific evidence suggests that we, in some limited yet ultimately still profound way, are an integral part of its purpose."

What in the world is the purpose of the universe? Are we random or are we purposed? For Mr. Davies, you and I are random, the present state of the universe is random, yet "the universe" as a whole has purpose. So, you and I have purpose because we are an integral part of a universe which has purpose? What is that purpose? What is your purpose within that purpose? Why does Mr. Davies so conclude? Perhaps because, as he said, it is simply too fantastic to be pointless and purposeless. Yet purpose implies something beyond that which has purpose, does it not? Doesn't the very nature of purpose point to something greater, something more, than that which has purpose? If as Mr. Davies says, the universe has purpose, is he saying that there must be something more than the universe? What would that be?

"The contrived nature of physical existence is just too fantastic for me to take on board as simply 'given.' It points forcefully to a deeper underlying meaning to existence." What would that be?

January 08, 2006 9:33 AM  
Anonymous anne arkham said...

Anyone care for a mint?

January 08, 2006 10:21 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

anonymous: Rather predictably, and sadly for me because I thought you might take more time with it, you've read what you want to read in Professor Davies Templeton Prize address, without actually thinking about what he's saying.

To simplify the beautiful eloquence of a very insightful man:

Yes, Professor Davies believes that there is, as he says, an elegant beauty to the structure of the universe which for him provides a deep sense of mystery. But he quite explicitly says that structure does not need to include us, our world or our way of thinking. Or, if you will take the time to read carefully, our notions of 'God'.

I'm not even going to bother with deconstructing your argument, because it's apparent that you don't really read what people write, but rather, what you want to hear.

Even your first sentence reflects your enormous bias in this respect. I did not once in any of my writing say that 'science is about evidence and proof'. You want me to be thinking that because it fits in with a preconception of science that you have already built. It's not what I think, what I mean or what I said.

For those who didn't read Professor Davies' address, I will quote his actual conclusion, not the interpretation that anonymous has imposed upon it:

It is clear that many religious people still cling to an image of a God-of-the-gaps, a cosmic magician invoked to explain all those mysteries about nature that currently have the scientists stumped. It is a dangerous position, for as science advances, so the God-of-the-gaps retreats, perhaps to be pushed off the edge of space and time altogether, and into redundancy.

The position I have presented to you today is radically different. It is one that regards the universe, not as the plaything of a capricious Deity, but as a coherent, rational, elegant, and harmonious expression of a deep and purposeful meaning.

As I said in my post, insert your God in there if you wish. It is, in my opinion, an I think I am correct in saying also in the opinion of Professor Davies, entirely unnecessary.

January 08, 2006 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Cissy Strutt said...

I'll take that mint now, thanks Anne. Reverend, I had a clip for you from yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald about the percentage of surveyed Americans who believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, but I inadvertently threw it away. What are the odds of that?

January 08, 2006 11:00 AM  
Blogger jedimacfan said...

At least Professor Davies felt strongly enough in his beliefs to attach his name to them and not hide under the shroud of anonymity.

January 08, 2006 11:53 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Not only that, jedimacfan, but Professor Davies puts forward his scientific ideas coherently enough that very deep thinking religious philosophers have sought to give him recognition in a formal way. We owe it to such people to give very thoughtful reading to their words, not to just superimpose our own beliefs upon what they say.

January 08, 2006 3:37 PM  
Anonymous amazedanonymous said...

Science has indeed “proven” that there is no “need” to throw a creator into the mix. Or has it?

Let’s set aside the most basic question of the standard of proof which should be applied and whether the science upon which we rely is fact, theory, hypothesis, or something else. Then, based on present scientific understanding, we are the product of a truly spontaneous event which occurred long ago as a result of “laws of nature”. Thus, that which “created” the universe – time, space, matter, and energy – was a structure called the “laws of nature”. You and I are, at bottom, random accidents – byproducts, if you will – of impersonal, highly efficient, extraordinarily intricate, and delicately balanced “laws of nature.” Thus, Steven Weinberg’s coldly scientific evaluation seems to be the most intellectually honest: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."

Yet, Professor Paul Davies is struck by the same conundrum that we all must deal with, the same conundrum that has puzzled and challenged mankind for centuries: If it is all random and/or pointless, why, when we look at the big picture, when we look at the forest instead of the trees, does it seem illogical to conclude that it is random and/or pointless. Professor Davies recognizes the conundrum. In his own words: “To me, the contrived nature of physical existence is just too fantastic for me to take on board as simply ‘given.’ It points forcefully to a deeper underlying meaning to existence.” Is that a valid conclusion to reach when looking at the universe as a whole, as described by present scientific understanding? It seems logical.

Where your Apostle Paul Davies’ logic seems to run aground is in his conclusions, which are neither scientifically nor philosophically nor theologically logical, at least not to my admittedly feeble, non-erudite, and limited mind. If, as your Apostle Paul concludes, physical existence cannot be taken on board as “given”, then the structure in which the universe exists – the laws of nature – cannot be taken on board as “given”. Yet that is exactly what Paul Davies does. He takes the structure as a given: The structure simply exists, it didn’t originate anywhere. Does that pass muster for you?

Furthermore, having concluded that we cannot ignore the big picture and that we cannot ignore the totality of the evidence presented by looking at the big picture, your Apostle Paul then concludes that the universe as a whole has purpose and meaning, which he cannot define and which he seems not to realize points to something else. A screwdriver has a purpose and the purpose of a screwdriver points to something other than the screwdriver. If the universe has a purpose, then that purpose points to something other than the universe. Stated a bit differently, if the universe has a purpose it must have a purpose by reference to something else. But in your Apostle Paul’s formulation, there is nothing else. The universe encompasses all of space, time, matter, and energy. And Apostle Paul does not seem to recognize – or thinks that we will not recognize – the absurdity of his remark.

And Apostle Paul’s theology is pointless – beautifully stated, but pointless. The universe itself has a purpose. Fine, but what is it, Paul? “The universe . . . [is] a coherent, rational, elegant, and harmonious expression of a deep and purposeful meaning.” That is beautiful rhetoric, but would Professor Davies care to elucidate the meaning . . . for those of us so ignorant as to think that meaning should mean something? The theology seems only to boil down to this: “We do not have to believe in God to believe that the universe has meaning. Question: And what is that meaning? Answer: We do not have to believe in God to believe that the universe has meaning.”

The aspect of Apostle Paul Davies’ science or theology that does make sense to me is that the universe is too fantastic to believe that it just happened. Yet intelligent, legitimate, credible scientists look at the same evidence and find the universe pointless, i.e., it did just happen. How can intelligent people come to such radically different conclusions based on the same evidence? It seems to me that the evidence of a loving, involved creator is there. It also seems to me that Paul Davies found it . . . and misinterpreted it. “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies shows forth his handiwork.” Ps. 19:1. “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Rom. 1:20.

God says he made it all, and you have a place and purpose in it, made just for you. He also says he loves you and you are valuable, so valuable that he sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to be ridiculed, to be tortured, to die, and to shed his blood for you so that you need not die in your sins and suffer the consequence of your sins, but may have eternal life.

Am I entirely objective? No. Are you? Is my interpretation of the “evidence” colored by my world view? Of course. Is yours?

By the way, I didn't realize that I was obligated to read Apostle Paul Davies' ideas with independent thought, criticism, or evaluation. My mistake, but that sounds a lot like . . . religion.

January 10, 2006 7:06 AM  
Blogger Joey Polanski said...

Science is th key t undrstanning all mysterys in life -- butcha gotta hammr on th locks a littl an wobbl th key just right.

January 10, 2006 1:25 PM  
Anonymous anne arkham said...

As the only scientist here, Mr. Fuel, I have to say that your statements about science are ringing false.

You write, "Science has indeed proven that there is no need to throw a creator into the mix." You're going to have to site a couple references for this, and I'm talking about scientific journals. Opinion has no place in science, and I can't imagine anyone publishing such a statement. I can't imagine the question even being addressed. This sounds to me like something you made up.

In your next paragraph you mention a "standard of proof which should be applied". Please elaborate. I am unaware of any standard.

You go on to say that "based on present scientific understanding, we are the product of a truly spontaneous event. . .which created the universe." This is false. The Big Bang Theory is a mathematic model that describes the behaviour of the universe from t=10^-43 seconds to the present. Nobody knows what happened before t=10^-43 seconds. Or in English, we have mathematics to describe the current state of the universe in terms of what happened following an event was probably a big explosion of some sort. But we know nothing of the event.

I quit reading after that.

And while we're at it, let's everybody quit using the term "quantum physics" unless we're really, really certain we're using it correctly.

January 10, 2006 6:34 PM  
Blogger jedimacfan said...

Anne, isn't that an old TV show with Scott Bakula?

January 10, 2006 9:35 PM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

amazedanonymous: Sigh. Where does one start?

You weren't 'obliged' to do anything at all. My suggestion that you read Professor Davies' Templeton Prize Address was in order that you could have a look at the way some scientists think about such deep matters, because your words indicated (and indeed still indicate) that your view of science and how it is practiced is antiquated, cliched and misguided. I had hoped that by your reading of some of the words of Professor Davies you might be inspired by the way some scientists are seeking to include these deep mysteries in their thinking process. If you can't encompass these profound thoughts, and must reduce them to millenium-old superstition, it is, quite frankly, your loss.

I'll try one more time to simplify: Professor Davies believes that there is an inherent structure in the universe that has some kind of order about it. He does not believe that there is a mythical 'god' who made it, nor see any reason to suppose one. You are quite plainly completely at sea with this idea. The view that there is order does not invoke god, let alone the highly arbitrary and petulant god that Christians have concocted. Professor Davies is offering a way forward toward asking deeper and more meaningful questions about ourselves and the universe, and the great mystery in which we find ourselves. You are trawling backwards through a mire of confused rhetoric and dogma which offers trite homiles and superstitions in place of clear thinking.

Making up a supernatural being to explain the mysteries that we can see in the universe is analagous to the Ancient Greeks explaining the Sun by conjuring gods that ride flaming chariots across the sky. It's the same logic. Observation would have shown the Ancients that the Mystery of the Sun follows predictable, ordered and beautiful rules. But it doesn't mean that because the rules are predictable, ordered and beautiful that the Sun is being propelled through the sky by a deity. No-one thinks that now. Everyone thought that back then. Can you not see how similar your reasoning is to this?

And quoting bible verses at me is really quite useless. A book of pre-medieval mythology that has been copiously re-arranged, re-written and edited according to the political agendas and whims of various personages throughout history does not impress me. If your belief is pivotal on the bible being the literal Word of God, then say so, admit your belief is irrational, and stop trying to defend it scientifically.

January 11, 2006 12:05 AM  
Anonymous anne arkham said...

That was Quantum Leap.

January 11, 2006 3:53 AM  
Anonymous Cissy Strutt said...

The screwdriver was invented before the screw was. (sorry, Reverend, Anne 'n' All, I can't site a source, except my odd little brain that strains out odd little snippets about life ... like that to give someone the cold shoulder originates not in the turning of one's back to the loathed person, but in the serving of meat from yesterday's roast joint instead of a hot, freshly cooked meal to someone you wish to make feel unwelcome)

January 11, 2006 8:00 AM  
Blogger jedimacfan said...

Making up a supernatural being to explain the mysteries that we can see in the universe is analagous to the Ancient Greeks explaining the Sun by conjuring gods that ride flaming chariots across the sky.

Yea, everyone knows that the Greek gods use Ferrari's now, not chariots.

January 11, 2006 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Universal Head said...

One of the many things that annoys me about religion, Christianity in particular, is that it always believes that right here and now we are at the apex of human understanding. For example, Christians have proposing that the end of the world is nigh - and quoting Biblical passages to prove it - since about two days after a guy was nailed to a bit of wood for proposing that maybe we could all just get along. 500AD, 800AD, 1000AD, 1003AD, 2000AD, take your pick. I turned on the TV on Xmas day and some expensively-suited 'Bible Scholars' were telling me it was any moment now. And yet - the world still hasn't ended.

Christians refuse to recognise that we are just a tiny mark on what is not only huge continuum of time for the human race, but an unimaginably huge continuum of time for the universe. "Right now is the time when it's all happening, and when we know exactly what our God wants us to do and think!" they cry (usually when you're being pilloried for suggesting freedom of speech and action, strangely enough). And yet, Christianity, and to some extent other major religions, continually evolves according to human interpretation, political machinations and the struggle for power, and the prevailing status quo in society. A few centuries ago I could have burned at the stake for suggesting this. In a few centuries more, hopefully, the Church will recognise that people have the right to choose abortion, female priests are a good thing, homosexuality doesn't hurt or threaten anyone, and in the case of the Catholics, letting your priests marry and have sex is a good idea to avoid widespread sexual deviation in the clergy. We can hope.

In colloquial terms, the goalposts just keep moving. Which brings us back to the God-in-the-gaps idea. Science will keep forcing religion to move the goalposts, and yet religion will keep telling us they have all the answers now. Well, that's what you said back in 1000AD. Burnt at the stake for nothing again...

January 11, 2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Anaglyph, I adore you. I want a mini-Anaglyph to carry around on my shoulder. And of course, we will both be accompanied by Anaglyph-composed theme music!

January 13, 2006 11:56 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Jill: Then you'd need a mini-amazedanonymous to carry around on your other shoulder. And you'd have to decide which one was the angel and which one was the devil...

January 13, 2006 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last night,when I picked boogers outta my nose-holes,there was one in the shape of the Sturgeon Mary! Howdya expalin that?

January 13, 2006 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Hugh said...

Well, I was in one camp and now sit uneasily in the other. 'Uneasily' because it seems hubristic just to write off God and everything that represents belief in one. (Then again, I now find it hard to abide those who want to tell me what God thinks.)

The trouble now is that I keep wondering if there's something I've missed, or am missing. Some hint. Some 'rumour of glory'. Not because I don't delight in and wonder at the variety and complexity of the world I see around me but because I feel lonely.

August 31, 2006 4:53 PM  
Anonymous anaglyph said...

All the elements of human frailty, and our difficulty with these big questions are encapsulated in your short comment Hugh.

I don't think it is hubris to write God off; it is just as hubristic to presuppose that their is such thing as God. Certainly, God cannot be assumed from evidence, unless you want to tolerate all Gods that are and were. Evidence for any has to be assumed worthy as evidence for all.

This is surely an insurmountable problem, and one that amazedanonymous repeatedly refuses to address.

Hubris only comes into play if you put yourself above a supposed God, or consider yourself superior to those who choose to adopt beliefs of God. Or think you know it all. I hope I have made it plain that I don't think any of these things. As I have said repeatedly, I have friends whom I respect, who believe deeply and thoughtfully in God. I don't consider my view to be in any way superior to theirs. In a way I even feel envious, because access to that kind of belief has been removed from me.

However, I do reject, as I've said in these posts, the idea that believers have the right to evangelize or proselytize, or that religious belief can be argued scientifically. It simply can't. There is no science in a belief in God.

You feel lonely because we are all, ultimately, lonely. The thought of God is comforting. It's very hard to look on the face of an implacable universe and accept that we are not its epitome.

August 31, 2006 5:16 PM  

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