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Goodbye cruel world...

03 June 2013, 20:28

This is going to be my last post on this particular forum, as it has descended to diatribe in place of dialogue and personal insult in place of debate. There are reasonable people who wish to indulge in debate, but I’m not vain enough to think they’ll miss me.

Siebert, if you really want to know whether or not David Block believes in evolution, e-mail him and ask him. I’m quite sure he’s capable of answering you. I’m not Derren Brown, so I can’t read his mind. He is a creationist, however.

I’m going to re-post my very first piece here, so you can see what I believe, and you can insult me all you like; this is my stance.

Approximately fourteen billion years ago, give or take a day or two, there existed a singularity. This singularity is a mathematical concept and, as such, would have had no dimensions of which to speak. This singularity, dimensionless and alone (there was nothing else) exploded with a violence unimaginable and gave birth to the universe.

In about three weeks, the universe grew to ninety-eight percent of its current size, creating the Laws of Physics as it went, and has been expanding ever since.

How do we know this? We don’t. It’s generally accepted by astronomers and astrophysicists, but we don’t actually know it. We accept the findings of very clever people like Edwin Hubble and Stephen Hawking, because they have devoted their amazing minds to things of this nature. 

Are they right? It seems they are, but there is no empirical method of testing the rightness of this hypothesis, for that is what it is.

We can conclude that they, and people like them, are right because the expansion of the universe can be observed. There is very little disagreement over the age of the universe or the fact of its expansion. What it does tell us is that there was a beginning of things. What it doesn’t tell us is how or why.

So we come to the earth, where all these discoveries were made, which is completely invisible from Pluto, which is part of the solar system of a medium-sized star. Which is part of one of billions of galaxies. Which shows us to be fairly insignificant, on a cosmic scale.

To give you an idea of our insignificance: if you grasped a grain of sand in a pair of tweezers and held it up against the night sky, you would be covering anywhere from a thousand to a hundred thousand galaxies!

 The earth has been here for about four and a half billion years. Again, there is no way to prove the age of the earth, but using generally accepted scientific methods, its age has been accepted as such.

How we got here, is another story entirely. In fact, it is many stories, and not just the two most people think of. One, and I mention it first, because it is the oldest, is by special creation of one sort or another, and by any number of different creators. The other, is that we evolved. Neither can be tested empirically, so we have to rely on other methods to establish the more credible one.

But before we venture into these murky waters, I would like to suggest another journey: the world of quantum physics. Einstein, when he read the Uncertainty Principle snorted in derision. ‘God does not play dice with the universe!’ he famously said. Quantum physics is puzzling to the finest minds and, if you think you understand it, it only proves that you don’t.

Traditional physicists accept the findings of quantum physics, even though it sometimes seems to fly in the face of both logic and Newtonian physics. In Newtonian physics, if you hold something up and open your hand, it will fall to the ground. Every time. In quantum physics, of course, we’re not working with something as mundane as that. Here, a thing can both be and not be, simultaneously. Huh? Yup!

Here’s Max Planck: ‘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.’

Richard Feynman: ‘It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvellous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.’

Two men of equal intelligence, with access to the same data, arrive at totally different conclusions.

One could, quite feasibly say then, that it’s what they expect to find. Even what they want to find. Preconceptions govern the lives of even the most intelligent of people.

According to the Bible, God created everything we see and a whole lot we cannot see and then, some time ago, He created man, and He created man in His image. We are the crowning glory of God’s creation and, even though we’re fallen, He still loves us completely, as only He can.

Many freethinkers, or intellectuals, make rather snide reference to the creation account and the fairy tale of the Trinity, as if such a thing could not possibly be. But if, in our physical universe, limited as it is, we have things that can both be and not be simultaneously, surely a God with the power ascribed to Him in the Bible, could do things beyond our comprehension?

Either that or the Bible is a fairy tale. You see, in my opinion, Richard Dawkins is wrong when he says religion teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are not answers at all. Religion may teach us to be satisfied with this state of affairs, but neither Judaism nor Christianity is one of those.

In both religions, the one which stems from the other, one is taught to  ‘…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength.’ There it is. Mind. God may expect unquestioning obedience, but never blind faith.

Everywhere we look we see things beyond our comprehension, which are beyond the scope of science to explain. Love, for instance. What causes it? It’s not biological, there is no area in the brain where love can be satisfactorily explained to be seen to emanate. The mystery of love is this: no matter how strong our sense of self-preservation, people frequently offer up their lives to protect those they love.

As do dogs. Which proves it’s not a human trait. Love has been observed in action by entomologists; ants scurrying around frantically trying to free another ant trapped in a web.

The things we do not understand we generally accept as something we may, or may not one day find the answer to. We are insatiably curious, and that is why we have discovered so much of our world and universe.

Which brings us very neatly to the question of God. And by this I don’t mean some vague god, such as the one who is all the rage at present, the God of Oprah, who loves everyone and is like a kindly old grandfather in heaven, who indulgently smiles and nods, as long as everyone is having a good time.

I am speaking of the God of Judaism and Christianity, of whom the writer to the Hebrews says ‘…it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ This is a God who says He is not mocked. He is, of course, but there is a price to pay.

Why this God above any other? This is the God who, through the many prophets who wrote both the Old and New Testaments, says He is pre-existent, omnipotent, omnipresent and omnibenevolent. Any other god is not worthy of the time or effort taken to worship them. And no, God is not a God who is so needy that He needs to be worshiped. Man is a worshiper, and if he does not worship God, he finds other things to worship, such as money, celebrities, and so on.

So, back to the singularity. People, among them scientists, have no problem believing that at one time, about fourteen billion years ago, there existed a singularity, and nothing more. But those self-same people cannot believe in a God who has always existed.

Abiogenesis, the belief that life came from nothing, or non-life, is every bit as illogical as special creation, in fact more so, in the light of current discoveries. But abiogenesis does not hand us a moral obligation, it does not demand a set of values, it does not say we are special, and every one of us is different, but valued equally.

Abiogenesis leaves us to behave in any manner we choose and, studying history, that is not very well. That includes many of the characters in the Bible.

What it brings us to is a simple, if not easy choice. Believe in this God, and the plan He has for our lives, or believe in any number of alternatives, of which abiogenesis is only one.

Christopher Hitchens said, in a debate, when asked how he would answer God on Judgement Day, if God did in fact exist. This is how he replied. ‘I will say, “I used the brain You gave me and exhaustively followed all the available evidence, and came to the conclusion that You did not exist.”’ Brave words and, ultimately, in my opinion, foolish ones.

I believe, as do many other people at least as intelligent as Christopher Hitchens, that there is overwhelming evidence for the God of the Bible. If you are honest and prepared to look for it, it is there. But once confirmed there is no turning back. God holds you accountable for your actions whether you believe in Him or not.

I’ll conclude with an observation by CS Lewis.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.’

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