I am 55 years old and 5’8½” tall. I live in a universe 290,909,091 times older than I am, and 1,296,092,390,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times taller – and that’s just what we can see of it. (And yes, obsessive as I am, I did just sit down and work out those figures from scratch).
From my exceptionally limited spatial and temporal vantage-point, then, what do I see? Well, what I see is a creation. Plain and simple. Trees coming about by chance? Mosquitoes? My cats? Me? Pull the other one. Look at so much as a single leaf in detail and… well, forget it, squire. That didn’t just manifest itself through the random collision of atoms.
Only… well… here’s the problem. An accumulation of scientific evidence points in the direction of ‘Yes, it did’. The evidence is compelling. I go with it. God is not sitting there in his workshop turning out kittens and bunny rabbits and blades of grass and Mount Everest and the Andromeda Galaxy on a lathe.
Well, we’ve pushed a creator out of the picture somewhat, but let’s be sensible here. We’ve not killed it off altogether. What created the environment within which all this takes place?
Consider Man as a maker of steel. He does not sit at a work bench with a pile of carbon atoms to the left of him, a pile of iron atoms to the right, and assemble from them an ingot atom by atom. He builds a furnace within which the conditions are right to feed the raw materials which will, by natural inclination, assemble themselves into steel of their own accord. Natural forces do the hard graft, but Man creates the environment within which this will happen.
God as furnace-maker then? In terms of my own thinking I am now at the age, historically, known as the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers rarely believed they had put paid to God by discovering the mechanistic universe. Rather they had just pushed him back a bit, denied him providence, said ‘No, not every blade of grass that grows, not every sparrow that falls but, rather, the creation of the environment in which these things happen of their own accord’.
Thank you Sir Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin, now back to li’l’ ol’ me. God as a maybe. But what is the ‘maybe-God’ we are describing here?
This is about to get offensive to Christians, to sound haughty and arrogant, but sorry, it is my belief. The Christian God comes too nicely packaged. It is too certain. It is too shapely, and known, and understood, and friendly, and nice, and it’s done this and it’s done that, and it was here when and there when, and it said this and it said that and it said the other. Well sorry, no. That’s not God, that’s my Uncle Bill. Moreover, the biggest event in its existence, or one of ’em anyway, was a single historical instance in which it revealed itself unambiguously to humanity by dumping its son off into a little village in the middle of the desert 2,000 years ago pre-radio, pre-television, pre-internet, forgot to provide him with even a scribe to take notes at the time, and said ‘There’s your proof!’ Well… no. Sorry. I could do a better job than that, and I can’t go with the idea of a universal creator who’s not as clever as I am.
Mohammed did a rather better job as an emissary, admittedly. At least God got him to get his daughter to take dictation, but still… could have done rather better.
Moses? Well… you know…
So here’s where I take issue with some clever-clever atheists. They think that if they can reject that then that’s put paid to God. Goodbye. Nice to have dreamed you. Have a nice day. Well, sorry, no; not clever-clever; silly-silly. All you’ve actually done is reject the Judaic notions of a creator and, let’s face it, that was pretty easy. You have not rejected any possible conception of some creative wotsit. You’re not an atheist if you stop there – or, at least, not a very bright one. All you’ve done is deny the various faiths arising out of Judaism. That’s a little like saying ‘Because the Singing-Ringing Tree is just a film made in Czechoslovakia with the aim – apparently – of giving small children nightmares, oaks and elms too do not exist’.
You gotta do better than that, guys.
Forget the Judaic God. Forget even the word ‘God’, it’s so loaded with anthropomorphisms that ‘He’ may as well be the bloke down my local corner shop. But consider the possibility of some creative wotsit that brought about the environment of the universe. When doing so, forget the words I’m using to describe it, they function within human language. It’s not going to be a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. It’s not going to be ‘good’. It may not ‘want’ this or ‘want’ that. It may not be anything you can even begin to conceive. It may not even be a ‘something’, just an ‘isness’, a first principle the only distinguishing feature of which we can actually comprehend is that its ‘existence’, (again the limitations of language), means that creation is not mere happenstance. Anyone who proclaims with certainty, that the universe is happenstance is not adhering to the scientific method. Considering how perfectly the universe is seemingly tailored to all that we see around us – the ‘anthropic principle’ – rule that isness out at your peril as a person who wants to lay claim to rationalism as a creature aged somewhere between 5 and 105 years old, between 4′ and 7′ tall. You simply do not have the evidence.
Okay, I’m aware this is a variation – barely even a variation – on ‘the God of the Gaps’, something I have argued against myself. This is the idea that if we don’t know something, posit God as an answer to that which we do not know and bingo! Sorted. However, I would argue against that as any sort of proof. Clearly it is not a proof at all, we may place anything in those gaps. All the ‘first principle’ gap permits reasonable doubt, and that doubt is very reasonable as anyone familiar with the anthropic principle would have to concede. However, there are alternatives. Multiverse theory, the one I prefer, means a creative principle is not a necessity. However, there is no more evidence for the multiverse than there is for a creative principle.
I am, then, strictly speaking, an agnostic. My working hypothesis is atheism, but that is all it is – a working hypothesis.