The Broken God.

‘Life. Loathe it or hate it, you can’t ignore it.’ One of Marvin’s best lines in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

One day, if I can ever make a logical and credible narrative out of all this, and after all my mistakes are corrected, perhaps it can be made into a book. With a suitable binding.

Here goes with another fragment.

Life. It’s a funny thing, life. Nobody seems to enjoy it very much but nobody wants to leave. Why is that? Why is it that the most sour-faced life-haters are the ones who want to live forever? The religious don’t want to live forever because they have faith in some form of better life after this one. Most atheists don’t want to live forever, but have accepted that the knowledge they have built up over their lives will simply blink out of existence at the end.

The ones who want immortality are, for the most part, those who would actually hate every breath they drew for the rest of eternity. They would despise those who can still escape their self-imposed living Hell just by clutching their chests, going ‘urk’ and falling over. I really hope the immortalists never succeed. Their first act would be to ban further reproduction – no more need for it, you see? They will want the world’s resources for themselves and they are going to need them for a very long time. They will not want to share with we ‘temporaries’.

The only conclusion to be drawn of those who want to place their brains in robots, eventually to download the organic mind onto a hard disk (the only ‘death’ would come as a blue screen then) must be that they fear death more than they hate life.

Before we can consider ‘what is death?’, we have to consider ‘what is life?’

What is it, actually, and what is so great about it anyway? Personally I’m looking forward to trying out as a poltergeist and moonlighting as a library banshee, but before I take the entrance exam I have to be sure there is something after this life. Not yet, not quite yet.

On the development of forms of life, science has a pretty good grasp. On the mechanics of it all – the DNA, the biochemistry, the structure and metabolism and so on, science has amassed vast amounts of data and can now dabble with those processes. Science is close to being able to construct a living cell from a shelf of lab supplies and might indeed already have done so. Bacterial cells aren’t all that complex in biological terms but even so, putting one together from a kit of parts would still not be easy to do. Even if you have all the parts.

Creating something as complex as a human, or even a mouse, cannot currently even be dreamed of by science. Maybe it can never be done. Oh, we can clone things – Dolly the sheep being the most famous one – but that’s just taking a cell from an already living animal and conning it into thinking it’s a fertilised egg. It still has to be grown in a ‘mother’ and we are nowhere near taking a row of bottled chemicals and building all the cells of a complex animal out of them.

We can meddle with metabolism and diddle with DNA but we cannot build a creature from scratch. We cannot breathe life into our creations, Frankenstein-style. We can only take existing life and tamper with it.

So yes, the mechanics of living things are well understood by science. But why are they alive? What is this vital spark that turns a bag of wet protein into a living cell?

The religious response – God did it – cuts no ice with science but it’s pretty much all there is, as answers go. Science has tried several approaches, including ‘life came to Earth as comet-borne bacteria’ but that just moves the problem one step back. If it didn’t arise on Earth but arose elsewhere, then how did it arise elsewhere?

Life is a real smack in the eye for entropy. ‘Everything tends to disorder’ works pretty well in physics but then along comes a bacterium and says ‘Sod you, I’m taking these broken-down bits of simple chemicals and making another one of me out of them’. All of Newton’s long-considered thoughts dashed to pieces by a methanogen, one of the most primitive forms of life in existence.

Whether viruses count as ‘alive’ is a whole separate argument. They are more like DNA/RNA bombs. They do nothing at all when they are a complete virus and are only active when inside another cell – where they are not a complete virus! Even then they have no metabolism, they just hijack the cell to make more of themselves. I’m not getting into that one just yet. For now, I’ll leave viruses out of it since I do not consider them to be alive.

Where life came from, where and how it started, are questions that can drive a scientist mad. We can theorise about spontaneous RNA and then DNA formation in a primordial soup but even if we manage to make it happen in a lab, we can never, never prove that it happened that way outside a carefully controlled lab experiment. And even if we did it in the lab, what have we created? Real life, or just organic robots? We would have to let it loose to make its own way in the world to prove it was real life and that is never going to be allowed to happen. If science ever creates life, Health and Safety will not let it out of its Eden. No matter how many talking snakes it claims to have spoken with.

Time and again we come back to that one question about life. How did it begin? Occam’s razor has come up in comments already. Occam’s razor demands that the simplest explanation is always the most likely (it’s not always true) and the simplest explanation of the origin of life – to the horror of science – is that God did it.

That cannot be an acceptable answer to science because science cannot progress to studying God. Science does not accept God, not because science is heretical but because it is logical. Science can only work with data and there is no data for God. There is no way known to science to generate any data for God. God is unknowable according to the Gnostics (yes, I have been reading odd books again, that’s why the demons in my stories are real) and science cannot study that which is immune to study. So science cannot accept ‘God did it’ as an answer unless science finds a way to find God.

Then science can say ‘Oh, so it was you,’ and then declare the entire universe to be a fabrication invented by a living being.

But what if it is?

Going back to the beginning of time (it’s a long way so no shouting ‘Are we there yet?’ from the back seat please) we have the Big Bang or the Creation. Either it was just ‘Foom!’ or it was ‘Let there be light’. Both are equally plausible at this point but science cannot accept creation because science cannot detect, nor even find a way to look for, a Creator. Science has to dismiss God as unreal because science only works on data and there is none.

It still leaves us with many billions upon billions of tons of matter that all came from nowhere, either way. Even if God made it all… what did he make it out of? There he was, moving across the void, thinking ‘Oh, Me, I’m bored with this’ and decides to make a universe. But there is nothing in the void other than himself.

How big is God? Well, even religion doesn’t know the answer to that one and since science has no way to detect God at all it cannot even hazard a guess. Let’s play thought games again.

Suppose the void before the universe was all dark matter and that the dark matter was sentient. Suppose it was able to concentrate itself into one spot. Suppose that, after a very long ‘time’ (since our perception of time is a function of the current universe, God-time is a whole different ball game) this sentient dark matter learns how to make other sentient beings… out of little parts of itself.

First he makes some angels but these are just telling the Creator how great he is for making them, and that can be satisfying at first but would soon get tedious. Then he decides to make some creatures that are a bit more defiant. Something more interesting.

They’d have to live somewhere where they could not easily find their maker. They’d have to believe they were alone. They would have to ‘believe’ rather than ‘know’ of their maker’s existence. The angels already ‘know’ so they are no fun any more. No, it has to be faith.

It’s a sort of self-set challenge. Can God make a whole load of creatures that will choose to worship him rather than just make another set of creatures who have to worship him because they know, absolutely, that he made them? Will they choose to say he cannot exist? If it’s all set up just right, that option will be available to them.

Maybe I’m anthropomorphising God because that kind of wicked trickery is exactly what I would do in his place – and there could be a reason for that.

In this scenario, the only matter God has available to make anything out of is himself. There is nothing else.

All of the universe. Every rock and blade of grass. Every person and every pig. Every star and all the planets. Even that thing dreamed up in a drunken haze, the duck-billed playtpus. All of it is a fragment of God.

If the remains of God is in dark matter then he was pretty damn huge to start with because he’s used less than 20% of himself to make all this stuff. Then again, we don’t really know how big ‘space’ (even the universe we are in) really is.

The Gnostics believe that God is in everyone. A little bit in every soul.

But if the answer science cannot accept is true then the hippies are right. God is is absolutely everything, down to every subatomic particle. We are all made of God.

If that is true then so is everything else. I am not talking about  becoming vegetarian because of the life of animals – in this model, there is no difference between plant and animal life.  The sculptor doies not hear the screams of the rock he carves, the herbalist hears not the groans from his mortar and pestle. But they are all parts of God.

I just had one of those ungodly thoughts, you know. There are those who would take a twist on  this information and starve themselves to death over it. If they are antismokers, I’ll do it.

If everything is a part of God then who are the religious worshipping? That would  be like your fingernail worshipping your hand

Then again, maybe that is what God wants  Not unquestioned worship like the cherubim and seraphim (which must be like listening to a millenium of the Floral Dance) but chosen worship.

Still it seems like being worshipped by your own kidneys or gall bladder, but then if you were the only living thing in the void you might think differently. I cannot conceive of how such a being might think or what it would desire. Can you? Maybe he has had enough and wants his bits back, reassimilated into himself, but has a moral issue with just erasing it all. Maybe.

Science does not do well with ‘maybe’.

Next time – maybe there is no God at all.

(I have Auchentoshan again – excuse typos and general madness)

 

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29 thoughts on “The Broken God.

  1. Leggy, two points: I disagree, that ‘god did it’ as the most parsimonious answer to creation ie according to Occam’s razor. To my mind, the ‘god hypothesis’ is no answer at all as there is no mechanism involved. At least science has a go at making an attempt at a rationalistic, mechanistic explanation. Whether it is correct, is another matter. But again it emphasies the diference in approach between science and theology. Secondly, the everything is god approach is nothing new (see Spinoza). However, if everything in the physical world is ‘god’ then it makes the whole concept of god redundant, meaningless and superfelous, doesn’t it? Like you, I do not believe viruses constitute life. All the same they are cunning and ubiquitous little buggers.

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    • Except that this “go at making an attempt at a rationalistic, mechanistic explanation” was made possible by Uniformitarianism, an 18th century unscientific philosophy by an amateur geologist, so very irrational.

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  2. XX So science cannot accept ‘God did it’ as an answer unless science finds a way to find God. XX

    As with your steroid example, this is only moving the problem one step back.

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  3. Recourse to Occam’s razor would, of course, make God the winner.

    For those disagreeing, isn’t resorting to a 700 year-old idea a bit hypocritical from people who slate others for believing “a 2,000 year-old book” as they tend to call it (Groupthink)?

    Further and more importantly, in Occam’s day until quite recently, life was considered far more simple than we now know.

    I think that those who arrive at a different conclusion by way of Occam’s razor are kidding themselves. The alternative (at the moment, but it changes) is that all matter was once the size of a subatomic particle which went “Boom” and expanded to about the size of the current universe in less than a second. Some of this matter (the stuff we can see) gathered together to form galaxies due to gravity and eventually the earth formed in our very own Milky Way. About 4.5 billion years ago, with just the right conditions on this planet for life to thrive (phew!), the first ‘life’ somehow appeared by chemicals randomly meeting, thus breaking the Law of Biogenesis (life comes from life; it doesn’t appear spontaneously).

    But as there were no scientists around, the first life forms weren’t to know this.

    Then an absolutely astounding and complex series of events takes place to get from this life form (or more than one, as some ‘experts’ believe – haha, they believe!) to where we are today and I don’t have to explain the complexity and variety of life on earth. At least I don’t have time to explain the complexity even of the ‘simple’ cell, which is complex beyond belief.

    Eventually, humans emerge from this process and unlike any other creature, we excel in the arts and engineering (beavers are quite good, but they couldn’t have built the Hoover Dam) and consider where we came from and where we are going.

    Of course a Creator is the least convoluted solution.

    Creationists say that God made the earth, the sun, moon and stars and life, which isn’t very scientific, granted, but evolutionists don’t say where all that matter came from or the void it filled, which isn’t very scientific.

    After both versions of creation have occurred, the science begins. Many people think that Creation science is an oxymoron. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Returning to Occam, which more simply explains the existence of molecular motors in living things? A Creator or random mutations? Take the bacterial flagellum (the tail they propel themselves with) which is driven by a real electric motor.

    If you showed this design to someone who didn’t know exactly what it was and said, “what do you think”, they would assume it had been designed by someone, would they not?

    “Most atheists don’t want to live forever,”

    I remember hearing Dawkins (who has admitted to not being 100% atheist, but who can be?) say that he would want to die at around 200. You can imagine him at 199 years and 364 days and in good health and a doctor saying, “Well, Mr Dawkins, tomorrow we kill you, as you wished for 145 years ago”.

    Do you think he would go quietly into that good night or use his 22nd century bionic legs and run like Linford Christie on Ben Johnson’s drugs?

    “… science cannot progress to studying God…”

    What can be studied is what faith produces and don’t they say that scans of religious brains are a bit different? As I said on a previous thread, many of the great scientists were Christians. Some ‘experts’ genuinely believe that Creationists shouldn’t work as mainstream scientists, especially in medicine, which doesn’t rely on believing or disbelieving the Theory of Evolution. I heard a quote the other day from an evolutionist who admitted that evolution theory is actually quite a useless subject to learn for applying to the real world.

    As to the matter of where all the matter came from, to quote Max Planck again:

    “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

    But I do believe that the Theory of Evolution was given to test people’s faith and unfortunately, it has been the cause of many people rejecting our Creator. One of these was Charles Templeton who was a famous evangelist, often addressing stadia containing tens of thousands of listeners, but evolution theory took over his mind and was the basis for him rejecting his faith and writing the book, “Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith” (1995).

    If only he had realised how shallow the case for evolution theory really is, but is bigged up largely for reasons of political control (which ‘atheists’ blame religion for and they’re usually right, but evolution theory/atheism has become a religion too). As Lenin said, “Our programme necessarily involves the propaganda of atheism”.

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  4. Stuart, you skip about like a skipy abouty thing. There is no order, no cohesion to your arguments, but a dogmatic mantra: ‘god did it, god did’ ad nausem. There is no mechanism here. To state that god did anything using his magisterial will is tantamount to no explanation at all. This is why it has lacked appeal to the scientific, rational thinking man since the 16th century. Religion has always opposed rationalist thought and it’s proponents. When the church had power it enforced it by physical force. If god’s wisdom is superior to man’s why should it be enforced by the rack?

    Are we to believe that your ‘explanation’

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        • P.S. If I mention the 100 million people killed in the past century due to evolution-believing dictators, do I win this theology/science debate? According to your way of thinking, I must (by a long way).

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          • Don’t mention the inquisition! “Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms.”

            Whether a despot is a believer in evolution or not is incidental and bears no relation to their killing spree. However, religious persecution was all part of the church’s doctrinal creed.

            Incidentally, Hitler was a catholic.

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              • And Hitler was very much an evolutionist and thus believer in the concept of a “master race” which caused an awful lot of trouble.

                Flaxen clearly can’t get past the Inquisition, so there’s no point trying to debate there. I would normally explain that the Catholic Church has always run on heresy and wandered hopelessly from scripture.

                But no debate, just “Inquisition”. Like Leggy’s “Racist, Nazi, Bigot” observation.

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  5. Douglas Adams was great. Two particular favourites:

    Marvin has just had an overhaul and is told he’ll lat a lifetime. He replies “Oh no. Not another lifetime!”

    There is a theory that if the nature of the universe is ever discovered it will immediately change into something even more unfathomable. There is another theory that this has already happened.

    The film of Hitchhikers was crap. The TV series was just as bad. Maybe is just unfilmable like the original ending in Monkey Planet (Planet of the Apes)?

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  6. Pendantry alert;

    Then again, we don’t really know how big ‘space’ (even the universe we are in) really is.

    I think you’ve got this arse about face. The current theory – and if you don’t like it there’ll be another one along in a minute – is that the universe is infinite and space is expanding into it. (Oh, and don’t ask where all the other universe’s have gone. That was last week’s theory, or possibly next week’s.)

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  7. FFS. This bickering is as bad as my kids. Look. Something created the universe and everything in it. Let’s call it Bob. Right. Let’s all believe in Bob. If you want to think of Bob as having a beard and sitting on a cloud, that’s great, go for it. If you want to think of Bob as being a whole bunch of super duper physics, that’s good too. It’s the same thing. Whatever works for you is good. What I don’t get, is how wanting everybody else to think the same way as you do fits in with liberty. Having a discussion about existence is one thing. Throwing your toys out of the pram is another.

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  8. Before we can consider ‘what is death?’, we have to consider ‘what is life?’
    Who can prove they are alive and not dead?
    Who can say being dead is better or worse than being alive?

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    • Typical Woody Allen – cute and smart. But, as usual, it is a generalisation and so is irrelevant to any individual. I think that generalisations can only apply to the past, and not at all to the future. The actions of individuals will decide the future, and not the actions of individuals in the past. That is why tobacco control is beginning to blister and rot.
      The Australian Government was captivated by Zealots. We know that. It is hard to understand how politicians allowed themselves to see ‘black and white’ when the reality is multiple shades of grey, or even multicoloured.
      It is becoming more and more obvious that the so-called clever thinking of Chapman et al is akin to the Pharaohs building pyramids to exalt themselves in the afterlife.

      ====

      Be that as it may!

      Two things spring to mind when we consider the Universe:

      1) What is space? It is very, very stupid not to ask that question since it is fundamental. Space exists, therefore it must be a ‘thing’. It cannot be ‘nothing’, otherwise it would not exist. Our understanding of the Universe requires that we know what Space is. Einstein nearly said that, but not quite. Instead, he talked about ‘g’ – the gravitational field. He opined that ‘the gravitational field’ could be bent and twisted, stretched and compressed. There is a vague suggestion in that idea that space itself can be bent and twisted, stretched and compressed.

      2) In a theological sense, does any of it really exist, or is it imagined? The Universe does not have to really exist. It can be a mental imagining. It is possible that we humans have no physical existence at all – we may be ‘mental blobs’.
      Do not laugh. The beauty of that idea is that it explains the macro and the micro – they do not exist. You could interpret this to mean that each and every individual person is an ‘angel’, imagining the Universe.

      I really like that idea, much as it hurts to think it. For example, it may well be that galaxies did not exist until someone discovered them. Remember that in Einstein’s day, it was not known that galaxies existed.

      We are ‘angels’, imagining the whole thing.

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  9. The essence of God for me is the ability to make decisions. Not intelligence, just the ability for a thing to make a decision. If you hold to the scientific premise that each decision creates a whole new universe by creating universes from the choices you make you are in essence, God.
    The afterlife can be seen as the wake of universes you create from a life full of decisions. Your influence lives on in those universes because you created them.

    Of course it could all be hogwash and just be the musings of a man trying to justify his place in life, whatever that is. Probably just an infinitely random universe generator. We may just be someone’s version of the premium bonds picking machine.

    One thing no-one has successfully explained is where do all these infinite number of infinitely large universes go? They must end up somewhere and it must either be very, very big, or it must be constantly expanding to accommodate them all. If the space ever runs out will we lose the ability to make decisions, or will we just stop creating universes? Or will we blink out of existence because we can’t create those universes?

    Where’s that Hawking bloke when you want him?

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  10. It occurs to me that being an infinite super-being must be bloody lonely, and really rather boring. Maybe this god created a universe on the off-chance that something like himself would eventually evolve, and finally he’d have some sane company at his own intellectual level.

    This means several things, the main being that God isn’t actually all that interested in humans per se. They’re about as interesting as the dinosaurs were, or the green slime was before that; they make more noise, start more fights but in the final analysis humans aren’t up there with God. We’re thick, is what I’m saying, and God doesn’t want to talk to thickies.

    God also really doesn’t want to be granting wishes, because down that road lies parasitism. The more satisfying an environment, the less complexity an organism needs to live; if God answered prayers then pretty soon he’d have human-shaped tapeworms down there. No, all he can do is wait, watch and maybe nudge a bit so the thickest ones get the shitty end of the stick consistently. Dinosaur-killer comet showers may be all part of the Great Divine Plan; if the pink goo isn’t smart enough to avoid getting wiped out, then we start over and see if the next bunch are smarter.

    This makes all of religion really rather silly; God will not, cannot answer prayers, so why bother?

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