God is “I don’t know”

“The wondrous disposition of the Sun, the planets and the comets, can only be the work of an all-powerful and intelligent Being” -Isaac Newton

“Sir, I have no need for that hypothesis” – Pierre Simone Laplace

These two men, Newton and Laplace, two of the most brilliant men who have ever lived, were working on the same question.  Laplace solved a problem that Isaac Newton was not able to; Newton’s belief was that the intricate arrangements and orbits of the planets and their satellites would have required God.  Nearly 100 years later, Laplace demonstrated that the orbit and arrangement of the solar system is well explained by the laws of motion.  No god was necessary in Laplace’s model, and the quote above was his response to Napoleon’s pointed question about it.

Herein lies the reason for God.  Most people can’t imagine a universe that wasn’t stuffed like a pinata by god.

My understanding is the universe could have come from nothing, given the sum of its total energy (0), and that nothing about the big bang violates any known natural laws.  I’m not qualified to assess the quality of the theories, but the thing I find appealing about the big bang is that it doesn’t appeal to supernaturalism, and the model demonstrates the universe’s creation in a plausible way.

Do these models really answer the question of who (or what) put the stuff there to give rise to a universe, or how it happened?  As far as I know, they don’t, but I could be wrong.  As far as we know, nothing put the universe’s stuff there, nor would anyone have needed to.  But this is a knowledge gap.

It is easy to say, that because we don’t know how that stuff got there, that it must have been God.  For many people, the assertion provides comfort, because it means we don’t have to ponder the literal infinity of possibilities, or acknowledge a reality in which we are not particularly important.

At some point in my life, and I suppose it was fairly recently, the God hypothesis (Deism, in particular), became a dishonest proposition.  I considered myself a Deist for a number of years because I didn’t want to give up on the idea of God.

Being raised in a fairly moderate Lutheran, midwestern household, religion never had a negative impact on my life, and it caused me no trauma at all.  But as a reasonable person, I couldn’t get past some pretty serious problems that existed in religion, namely that the bible is fairly ludicrous and demonstrably wrong in a meaningful number of places.

The evolution of this recognition eventually lead me to Deism, which was a good incubator for my evolving worldview.  I was about 25, at the time that I decided Deism was the way to go.  Deism was appealing to me, because you can believe in God without having to believe in all the ridiculous propositions in the bible or Christianity, in general.

Sometime in the past year, I managed to ask myself why it was that I didn’t want to give up on God.  The answer I came up with was some combination of fear and incredulity.

I just couldn’t imagine a universe that wasn’t at least partly attributable to supernatural intervention, and I didn’t like the risk it posed to not believe in any God at all…after all, even though midwestern Lutherans are moderate, in terms of their religiosity, they still imagine a hell.

But what is that, if not God of the gaps?  People used to believe the Earth was flat and the sun revolved around the earth.  No one 500 years ago could have ever imagined that we have trillions of cells that make up our body, let alone the fantastic orchestra happening inside our cells.  They didn’t know about germs or how to cure diseases.  They would have never imagined cell phones or spaceships.

The existential challenges humans confronted, particularly their very short lifespans, required supernatural explanations, because there was no logical bridge that would have allowed anyone to arrive at the conclusion that there are microscopic pathogens that can kill us, or that interaction of mixed pressures in the atmosphere causes rain.  Our original responses to life’s realities gave us inventions like human and animal sacrifices, along with the demanding deities that commanded those sacrifices, and whose methods of enforcement included flipping the switches of natural phenomena, such as rain, thunder, disease, and insect infestation.

Luckily, humans can be pragmatic enough to recognize that rain dances, animal sacrifices, meteors, and astrology do not provide insight or exceed chance in predicting our futures.

This human pragmatism is the device that allows us to stop appealing to supernatural explanations for complicated phenomena.  Even if we knew nothing at all, that still would not be a logical justification for supernatural causes, and that was the fundamental realization that led me to toss out Deism as my worldview.  Celestial beings are not an honest way to explain things that are beyond our current capacity to measure.

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Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

1 thought on “God is “I don’t know””

  1. I am fascinated by the nit-picking of creationists. They claim that because we do not know all of the infinite details of something that happened 14 billion years ago, they say their Sky Fairy must have done it. At least they have given up their “How could you know, were you there?” line.

    The fact that they conflate the Big Bang with Evolution explains that they understand neither. The fact that the say “nothing ‘just happens'” reinforces the same thing. If you put a pot of water on the stove and turn on the heat, bubbles form! Bloody Hell, they just happen! No creator needed. And then there are the mountains; they rise and erode away. What could be the cause of this? I know, magic makes it happen! It couldn’t just happen by itself.

    If you take these persons opinions to their logical conclusion, we already know all of the science we need. Ask any question and the answer is “because God did it that way.”

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