January 14, 2009 - January 7, 2009
. The existence or nonexistence of God is a big
question. It amuses me that young leftists have succeeded in asserting
their atheism so often that they've put theists on the defensive. Flush
with their rhetorical triumph, they're amazingly arrogant about
proclaiming that they're infinitely smarter than the fools who continue
to believe in God.
Apologists for God have been caught off guard. I, personally, was stupefied when a longtime Roman Catholic friend I asked to cite the best argument he knew of against atheism recommended a book by the Anglican C. S. Lewis.
Sound dire? It isn't. The Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens of the world -- and all their dumb disciples -- can't talk their way around the fact that common sense is on the side of the existence of a "higher power" of some kind, meaning a power possessed of far more intelligence than Dawkins or Hitchens can lay claim to. The stridency of their objections is a lot like that of the solid citizen who shakes his fist at the lightning storm daring it to strike him.
Fools. Atheism isn't the intelligent default position. It's simply the "Get out of Jail Free" card for a bunch of folks who equate a lack of knowledge with certainty. Atheists put their faith in the mathematics of the universe, the ellipses of the orbits, the explosive temperatures of gases, the mutations of organic molecules. But why do the laws of math or biology obtain in the first place? They don't know, and they don't care. They don't know where the universe came from, they don't know how life began, and they can't explain how man erupted from primate mediocrity in less than 50,000 years to produce Leonardo and Michelangelo. All they're certain of is that God had nothing to do with it.
Fine. Except that all self-professed atheists are lying. Nobody can be sure there's no higher power -- you know, the one who dreamed up mathematics and physics and chemistry and biology... The atheists are all agnostics unless they're utter imbeciles. What they're saying is that they don't know where we come from bu they're pretty sure all the religions are wrong. They think they know Yahweh never rescued the Jews from annihilation, Christ didn't die for mankind on the cross, and Buddha didn't ascend into heaven after telling his followers how to live their lives. All such notions of divinity are wrong and stupid. But such nonbeliefs are a far cry from asserting anything as positively true about the universe we live in.
That would be fine but for a few things. Atheism is not a religion. It's not a philosophy. It's an abnegation. There's nothing about it that's a moral system. Once I agree with you that the universe exists without a creator, we're all free to interpret our existence as we like. No God, okay. No spiritual life that isn't a function of chemistry, great. If we drink some wine and agree in our cups that there just might be some grand architect of existence who wrote all the laws of our beloved science, that still doesn't mean there's any implicit morality in his scheme. Right? But specification of the creator scientist who doesn't care who we fuck or kill or dismember is an assumed human limitation of a power we can't possibly know is limited to some cosmological laboratory. When a scientist concedes that God might exist as a soulless didact of mathematics he is seeking to constrain that higher power to dimensions he can comprehend. His sterile conclusions say nothing about whether it's good or bad for people to steal, commit adultery, engage in incest, or slaughter anyone who obstructs his wishes. On what basis does any atheist proclaim any of these activities unacceptable? Why shouldn't they all be acceptable? Unless there's some spurious, and entirely unenforceable, philosophy which says such things are not to be done because... well, because.
Here's my take. Math is more than accident. God is more than a gifted geek. The planets do spin round, the stars do shine, and we are really here, some of us smarter than chimpanzees. An accident? Perhaps.
But perhaps not, too. A conscious species looks to the heavens and seems to find an answer. Do the scientists and atheists ask why there are so many more of us human beings than there are gorillas, chimps, rhinos, bears, leopards, elephants, and giraffes? No. They automatically assume our preponderance is a kind of guilt. It never occurs to them there might be a kind of meaning in the fact that a conscious species which has gone out of its way to believe in something beyond its own existence -- to the point of being willing to sacrifice itself individually for a nonexistent deity -- has a vastly superior chance of survival.
If some one wrote the laws of math and physics and biology, it doesn't mean he's just a scientist. It means he's so far above us we can't assume he's also not personally involved in all our daily lives. It also means he might interact with us at the level of art literature, music, and, yes, religion.
What I've never gotten over is the endless symbolism of Christ's death and resurrection. It goes out in all directions. Forever. Such a huge story that it seems a divine event.
Hmmmm. Suggest anything to you?
How do you explain it? For that matter, how do you explain anything that's happened to the race of mankind?
Forget all that. Just tell me why it is exactly you act so fucking superior to anyone who believes in God. Do that and I'll listen. I promise.
No, I don't. You're all a bunch of pseudo-intellectual fakes. If we debated face to face, I'd crush you. With pleasure. Don't ever doubt it.
UPDATE. Interesting comments. I'll respond to a few points here. First, I was principally disappointed in the C.S. Lewis reference not because he was an Anglican but because he is yesterday's news in the context of the current war on religion being waged by atheists. Lewis argued the question principally as a philosopher and lived before a lot of the science which could and probably should be marshalled in support of those who believe in God even existed. Lewis is an eloquent advocate for people who have wrestled with questions of faith in the context of faith, but he's beside the point for today's default secularists, who are ignorant of both the history of theology and the history of its impacts on the development of civilization. His is simply not the argument that's required to puncture the arrogance of the self-ordained demigods of science and its herd of incurious followers.
Edward's comments are the providence I was hoping for. He is polite, articulate, and a perfect example of the fallacious reasoning I described in the post. Like most atheists, he hasn't inquired deeply enough into the matter to realize that he is looking at a two-part question. He therefore believes his position is easily justified by what he mistakes for an absence of evidence.
He believes, as I indicated in my post, that the argument against God is synonymous with the argument against the God of the Old and New Testaments, the Allah of Islam, the pantheon of Hinduism, the implicit divinity of Buddha, etc. He correctly states that there is no scientific or rational proof of these religious interpretations and concludes that his atheism is defensible against all comers with no need even to break a sweat. Problem is, that's only part two of the question.
Part One is the universe we live in. What does that tell us about whether or not there is a -- for want of a better word -- divine intelligence at work? It's an unpardonable omission, really, given that the war against God is being led by scientists (and the scientifically disposed) whose case depends on ignoring the macro view in favor of micro models. Since Dawkins believes he can explain the evolution of life from one-celled organisms to mankind by exclusively chemical and biological processes which function without intelligence and largely via accidental circumstances, he also believes he has eliminated higher intelligence from the workings of the entire universe. From here it's a short step to proclaiming that if the twelve plagues of Egypt have similarly mundane scientific explanations, the entire Judeo-Christian tradition is delusion.
This is, to put it mildly, an example of drawing the question too narrowly. Historically, the mission of science was to explain the natural world and its workings, including cosmology, not to amass legalistic arguments against the likelihood of divine intervention in those workings. How can we be sure the question is too narrowly drawn? Because every religion in the world could be utter bunk, and it could still be the case that the universe -- i.e., the natural, physical state of the existence we experience -- is the creation of a supernatural intelligence, meaning an intelligence that is literally above and beyond the natural. That's a concept normally referred to by the word 'God.'
For atheists to be truly atheists and not agnostics, they must believe that there is not and never was a supernatural agent who created the existence we all experience. And it is here that they are required to confront voluminous evidence which can only be explained away by acts of faith that make the irrational beliefs of Christians look puny by comparison. Their own rules of science are against them.
Consider this paradox. The more Dawkins can make evolution seem like a rational, predictable series of responses to random changes in the environment, the more he makes the process of evolution resemble a computer program. The more he excludes intelligent intervention from that process, the more programmatic he makes it. Because algorithms, and complex alogorithms at that, are clearly at work. According to evolutionary models, eyes have evolved separately and independently in multiple branches of the animal family tree. Why? And how? Eyes are distinguished by the fact that none of their properties offers any survival value at all until their myriad components come together and produce the ability to see. The evolutionary program may be running automatically and without intervention, but it has to include an algorithm for making eyes. So there's a computer and a program, but no programmer.
Consider another paradox. In the Dawkins model, human beings are intelligent but the universe itself is not. The universe is just a series of meaningless chemical reactions that nevetheless obey physical and mathematical constraints even the most determined atheists are compelled to describe as laws. These are laws which human intelligence has struggled, and still struggles, to understand, with only partial success. Dawkins and his brethren have spent their lives endeavoring to understand these laws and yet, with a straight face, they declare that there is no absolutely no evidence of a supreme intelligence operating behind or prior to the phenomena of nature. As if the mere fact of conscious human intelligence doesn't indicate that such intelligence has a precedent in the universe itself or is any kind of pale reflection of a built-in property of that universe. Got it.
I could go on citing paradoxes but I won't. The bottom line is simple. We live in a house whose architecture, plumbing, and electrical systems we know to be operating in complex, dynamic ways through time and we're studying their operation like crazy, but we're certain there's no evidence anyone built the house in the first place. That's what it means when Edward says he sees "no evidence" for the existence of God.
The second part of the question really does become a matter of philosophy and faith, but if one has properly considered the first part, the second is no longer purely academic or purely foolish. If the house we live in had an architect or an engineer, we really have no basis for presuming that his intelligence would be unaware of or uninterested in ours. If he were there, we certainly couldn't be sure that he is NOT above nature or that his engineering is not so beyond comprehension that it could seem to be operating without intervention even though its author is intimately involved in every aspect of its, and our, phenomenology. There is no value system we could confidently impute to such an intelligence that would guarantee the sheer size of the house (i.e., universe) would make our existence in it seem too negligible to pay attention to. In fact, the evidence of nature is quite contrary to this kind of size-based snobbery. Wouldn't a generic lab-rat god be content with identical snowflakes? And why would the laws of his mathematics extend into areas that have no physical analogues at all, featuring properties that appear to have no conceivable purpose but the excitation of intelligent imagination?
But I'm sure Edward can explain all this away. As easily as he dismisses the countless manifestations of human faith which have resulted in his own freedom to regard the contemplation of life itself as a "waste of time."
I have to admit it's hard to imagine that a nation with as short an
attention span as the U.S. -- and with as much disdain for the outdated
relicts of yesteryear -- could summon any real enthusiasm for a royal
Restoration such as the Clintons have in mind. Everything about them is
old, even their scandals, which are already distressingly reminiscent
of the '90s rather than the exciting new era of the Global War on
Terror and the Congressional War on the Iraq War.
I mean, do Americans really want to go back to sex scandals (Lewinsky, Willey, Jones, Huma...) and campaign finance scandals (Charlie Trie, Norman Hsu...) and personal corruption scandals (Whitewater, Marc Rich, Hillary's private jets...) in an age when lowly U.S. Senators are coming across with bathroom stall scandals and the young lions of the Democrat Party believe they can prove the President and his VP not only stole two elections in a row but also planned the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history? In this context, the standard Clinton fireworks are pretty small potatoes if you ask me. [YAWN]. Excuse me. Didn't mean to be disrespectful there, but facts are facts.
Who needs Lewinsky's soggy blue dress when we've got Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Britney Spears showing off their private parts in high resolution to paparazzi with guaranteed 4-hour turnaround on the Internet? And free sex tapes filmed in state-of-the-art military nightvision. Even Bill's geriatric sins are mild compared to all that.
And just who is it that's so fond of the 1990s anyway? In case you've forgotten, here's what the American scene was really like when the Clintons burst into our lives a whole generation ago:
Boy, that was a long time ago. A LOT of water over the dam since then.
And this woman dares to talk about the future as if her vision of it
were actually exciting? Give me a break. It's like Angela Lansbury
promo'ing a super-hot episode of "Murder She Wrote" on the Merv Griffin Show
If single mothers are her biggest constituency, I'm pretty disappointed in single mothers. I'd sort of gotten the idea they were taking their cues from Britney, not Doctor Ruth.