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>Measuring a Universe without God

>Richard Dawkins was the guest on the second hour of Science Friday on October 6, 2006. The Dawkins interview follows a series of interviews with United States scientists who are this year’s Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine or Physiology.

I love this stuff: the discussion of basic science, finding patterns that explain old discoveries and new discoveries that offer ever more questions. Add in brilliant people speaking clearly and I’m just like a kid with a present. (Or “in Heaven.”)

I don’t normally discuss religion so obviously on this blog, but they started it. . . .

I have not read it yet, but Dr. Dawkins was interviewed in order to review and discuss his most recent book, The God Delusion. The book was written with the expressed purpose of proselytizing readers to atheism – although, in the interview, he denies that atheism is or can become a religion. He does speak of what he and others call a “war” between those with faith and those without, or between those who believe in a Creator and those who do not. I would think that he would see the correlation.

During the first hour, a caller asks about what we know about the conditions or what existed before or “on the other side” of the Big Bang. Dr. Dawkins speaks of measuring the universe with a God vs. a universe without a God.

These are different versions of the truly unknowable, unanswerable question, at least until we are able to leave this universe or become super-natural to the nature we know and live in.

How could we measure the universe in such a way as to discriminate between the variable of the existence of God?

Currently, as I’ve said before, we’re the only ones having this conversation, so our discussion is necessarily limited to observations drawn using our own tools and senses. We might be able to draw better conclusions if we found another world with other beings having the same conversations.

My capitalization of the words “God” and “Creator” reveals that I’m a believer. In fact I am a Christian, raised (as my heroine, Scarlet put it) on the Bible, especially on John 3:16 and Romans 5:12.

My study of science and bioethics as a way to use what I learn in science as informed by philosophy and ethics is founded on a further belief that Romans 1 teaches that God reveals Himself by looking at and studying the Creation. There just doesn’t seem to be a better answer to questions about the conditions on the other side of the Big Bang than that given in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God…”

Science is properly understood by a believer as using what He gave us to draw conclusions about His Creation from what we can measure and study.

Both believers and nonbelievers agree that those studies should be repeatable in various labs by various observers.

To extrapolate ethics from either a study of history or thought experiments, as Dr. Dawkins seems to do, seems better informed by an understanding that we’re not as we’re supposed to be, while observing what we’re striving to be. We can tell that we have a sense that things are not as they should be, because we keep writing books about what is wrong, and telling others how to be better.

The position that we want to be better, is supported by the fact that we *are* having these discussions. Dawkins must believe that it’s better to be atheist than to be a believer or else why write the book, sell it on radio shows, and risk the discrimination to which he believes atheists are subject?

(It could be just that he can sell a lot of books. But still, all those extra universes just to sell a few books?)

Dawkins says that he is passionate about what is true. I am also. And I see this passion for truth as a reason to believe in the Creator: one Who would build us so that we seek truth, love one another, and Who is the source of ultimate Truth and Love. If He does love us unconditionally, it’s not so surprising that He would want to become “Immanuel,” or “God among us.”

It’s interesting that Dawkins believes that Jesus (“Immanuel”) was a good person. And that he says that if there is a God, it would be very important to know Him.

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Conservative Christian Family Doctor, promoting conservative news and views. (Hot Air under the right wing!)

Discussion

8 thoughts on “>Measuring a Universe without God

  1. >I dont think its possible to disprove the existance of God. And it would only be possible to prove it with His cooperation – which appears to be lacking.There are several major religions, and many thousands of minor and dead ones. The major ones have hundreds of denominations. God could prove His existance easily enough if he just came down here, did a few TV appearances, and a couple of massive miracles like, say, turning off the sun for a few minutes then restarting it, or performing a calculation in a second that would take the fastest supercomputer a trillion years, or restoring the limbs of everyone in the world currently missing one. A couple of weeks campaning like that, and there will be one very dominant religion. Or he could just have all non-christians drop dead, much more efficient and just as convincing.But God doesn't do any of those things. He never has – Christ could have added a few hundred digits of pi starting at the ten-millionth to the bible, something that noone could know until computers were developed. Only God, or meddling aliens, could have done that. All we have to see is a universe that can be explained quite well by purely natural princibles.I also think that God is cheating on the origins question – because no origin for God is given. Ive heard people argue that various features of the universe are too complicated, or too well-tailored, to have emerged without a guideing inteligence. But they never have a satisfactory answer for where this inteligance – which must itsself be just as complicated – may have emerged from. They instead mutter some question-dodgeing nonsense about God not being subject to the normal laws of time.

    Posted by Suricou Raven | October 14, 2006, 11:39 am
  2. >SR, I'll be out most of the day, but I'd love to continue this discussion.The lack of an origin of God is no more an indictment against the existence of God that the lack of knowledge about the origine of the Big Bang. We can see what has been done. We can see that humans are passionate in a way that no other animal is. In the meantime, go read what Jesus did and said. (Try John 3, 1 John 1, and Colossians.)If you don't believe the stories of the sun going dark or standing still, of the miracles of water to wine, the healings, the raising of others and then Himself from the dead, or the witnesses who tell about it, you'd probably just assign finding the millionth decimal of pi to a math genius or fraud.In addition, there is only one religion that tells us that God doesn't judge anyone who believes in His Son, since the Son has already paid the death penalty for our stealing, lying, sexual immorality, or any other sin we can think of.Unfortunately, humans are trying to understand what we can't, but we all see a bit of it. I like to think of it as "God is light." And people are mirrors, or reflect the image of God. Some people are good, clear mirrors, most are irregular and flawed, a lot are scratched and dirty or even reflecting only one end of the spectrum of the Light.

    Posted by LifeEthics.org | October 14, 2006, 1:30 pm
  3. >"If you don't believe the stories of the sun going dark or standing still, of the miracles of water to wine, the healings, the raising of others and then Himself from the dead, or the witnesses who tell about it, you'd probably just assign finding the millionth decimal of pi to a math genius or fraud." If I had any evidence that those were real events, they would be sufficient to at least convince me there was something very strange going on that I should be concerned about. God? Possibly. Not nessicarily – elaborate theories about alien intervention or a lost civilisation could be made. But it would still lend Christianity a lot more credability than any other religion could claim.But there is no reason for me to give any more credability to ancient christian myth than, say, the story of Odin's quest for knowledge, or of any other religion or mythos. This is why I suggested pi: It could be verified at a much later time, and would be essentially impossible to forge with the text so widespead. It would prove that the authors of the text had access to knowledge they shouldn't have."n addition, there is only one religion that tells us that God doesn't judge anyone who believes in His Son, since the Son has already paid the death penalty for our stealing, lying, sexual immorality, or any other sin we can think of." True, so far as I know. But why is that any evidence for its correctness? Many religions have a claim to uniqueness.I barely started on the sheer rediculousness of Christianity. The whole subject of sin… why would God need to perform an elaborate ritual of self-sacrifice to free humans from sin – a concept He created, aquired by violating rules He wrote – in order for them to escape punishment administered by Himself? Then the Holy Bipolar Disorder, where God is sometimes preeching his love for all mankind and sometimes doing his best to wipe out hundreds of thousands of people at a time, often for no better reason than that they are part of the wrong tribe.The often arbitary and unexplained nature of some of the commandments – why would God, the all-powerful creator of the universe, set laws governing the ceremonial burning of animal sacrifices, or even a weekly say of forced rest?The variety of religions. There are so many… if any one of them were actually true, should it not have risen to easy dominance? Its followers' prayers would actually be answered, miracles available on demand. Churches wouldn't need to pass the offering plate.And on the subject of prayer, why doesn't it work? You will find many people who are quite convinced prayer has done everything from clean their washing to cure cancer, but if you do a statistical analysis to a rigerous standard, every time prayer is revealed as having no effect at all. Ive asked many Christians about that, and usually I am told that it is the 'wrong type of prayer' – that its too impersonal, or the wrong denomination, or that this particular type of request isn't valid. But I just see that as an excuse: Christ promised many times that prayer would work, from the most trivial to the most demanding, and yet prayer cant even influence the outcome of a coin-toss.

    Posted by Suricou Raven | October 14, 2006, 7:32 pm
  4. >Still, we seek, don't we? And the general inclination is to seek to be better (as though we understand we aren't) in the pursuit of justice, truth, love, beauty and knowledge are universal. Every civilization teaches/acts as though we aren't perfect and has a concept of sin and demands some sort of penalty. As I said, there's only one religion that promises all of those, because of a plan by the Creator, Who (both the Old and New Testament report) said, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." Some of the more informative stories in the Bible are about Rahab (the prostitute who saw and believed and who was saved with her whole family), Hezekiah (who reinstituted the Passover and prayed to save the people who were worshipping with the right purpose, although unprepared and not according to the letter of the law), and the woman of Canaan (who quipped to Jesus that the dogs can eat from the scraps that fall from the table in order to save her daughter's life). I'm never surprised that the random studies on prayer don't provide definitive proof of the power of prayer. Faith and random, controlled studies seem contradictory. And it always seemed wrong to me somehow to pray for the universe to be interupted for a coin toss.Denying what we don't understand, whether a universal constant like pi,the Big Bang, evolution, or the Creator Who is outside of the laws of the universe seems to be another part of our nature. Job 38 is way above my head, but I get a glimpse of the same explanation:4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone– 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

    Posted by LifeEthics.org | October 14, 2006, 10:39 pm
  5. >You defend christianity with as much reason and conviction as a muslim would defend islam, or hindus or sikhs their religion… if I could take you back a few thousand years, I would find you a priest of Zeus who used exactly the same arguements. All of these religions are contradictory, so at most one of them could be correct. Why should even one be? Because humans usually have a vague feeling that there is someone watching over them? That is hardly the most compelling of reasons.Prayer doesn't work for things as trivial as a coin toss? So what about something more important… how about recovery rates from cardiac surgery? Thats exactly the type of thing people pray for… but it doesn't work. I have material to prove that, but I dont see why it should be different for any other disease. It cant regrow limbs. It cant (reliably) bring financial gain, or churches would never need to pass the collection plate. It cant convert others to Christianity, otherwise two thousand years of prayers would have converted the whole world by now (That, and people have prayed for my conversion often. I always thank them for careing enough to try).So what, exactly, can prayer do?"I'm never surprised that the random studies on prayer don't provide definitive proof of the power of prayer. Faith and random, controlled studies seem contradictory." So, by this you mean "It only works if you dont test it." This is a breach of logic so rediculous, I cant properly tell you how annoying I find it.My favourite story in the bible is, and probably always will be, Judges chapter 11. I dont know if you have read it, so to sum it up briefly: A man accidentially promises to sacrifice his daughter to God. With her cooperation, he does just that – and this is one of the bible's *good guys* – praised for being more willing to kill his daughter than to break his word.

    Posted by Suricou Raven | October 15, 2006, 12:37 am
  6. >The story of Jephthah's daughter is about her willingness to be a willing sacrifice – the yearly remembrance is for her. It's probably a forshadowing of the death by willing self-sacrifice of Jesus and a warning to the rest of us *not* to make bargains with God, and to be very careful what we ask for when we do pray. (He did say, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." And Jesus repeated that we weren't to test God. He also noted that people were always demanding the next miracle.)This story is a level higher than that of Agamemnon and Iphigenia. She wasn't willing, and no one celebrated her death. (some stories do say that Artemis whisked the girl away and put a deer in her place – similar to the story of Abraham and Isaac.)I'll admit to wanting to rewrite history the way I wish it had gone, but then I go back to Job 38 and get distracted by the idea of the morning stars singing sometime around the Big Bang.It is ironic that the stories of Judeo-Christian tradition were carried out in the open, witnessed and recorded in public documents. (The Ten Commandments were given to Moses when he was alone, but the Israelites saw the storm on the mountain, and there was the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, not to mention the tablets, themselves.)The values held as the highest by most people are underscored – in contrast to rigid classes, involuntary sacrifice of others, the hate and convert-or-be-conquered that are the tenets of so many religions.

    Posted by LifeEthics.org | October 15, 2006, 4:24 am
  7. >"It is ironic that the stories of Judeo-Christian tradition were carried out in the open, witnessed and recorded in public documents."Recorded in *one* surviving document. A document that also records a six-day creation, a global flooding survived by a packed ship and a *lot* of inbreeding… yes, really a reliable source, I see.For those who admit the bible is not itsself proof of a historical event, the evidence for each of the OT stories is somewhere between "This is impossible" and "Well, we may have found some buildings on the site."

    Posted by Suricou Raven | October 17, 2006, 10:35 pm
  8. >Perhaps you should research the history of the documentation of the documents that are usually collected in the West under the title, "Old Testament." The oral and written tradition that we have today are virtually unchanged since copies written anywhere from 300 BC to 70 AD and found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are conflicting documents, but copies of the Psalms and Isaiah were found, the texts were the same that were passed on. Documents as old as the Elba library and Babylonian records at the very least, do not contradict the King James version of the Old Testamen. Some support the history in Genesis and clear up previous conflicts.It's odd that letters and papers written about Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates are all we have, and yet they are taken as "gospel."Your dismissal of the validity of the documentation of the Jewish culture is equivalent to a good Baptist girl dismissing the geneology records collected by the Mormon church.

    Posted by LifeEthics.org | October 18, 2006, 11:23 am

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