A favorite gambit of believers and even some agnostics is to
claim that atheists all state unequivocally that there is no god. Some
atheists are a bit strident, of course, but most aren't, and a reasonable
response is “It depends on what you mean when you say 'god.'”
The biblical god is a logical impossibility and an affront to
reason. There is a syllogism that goes back at least 250 years that
stipulates God is all knowing and all-benevolent, incapable of evil and
with unlimited power to prevent it. And yet this same god is locked in
combat with Satan, one of god's first creations and supposedly the
embodiment of all evil. Therefore, if god is all-powerful he cannot be
all-benevolent for he created evil; if he is all-benevolent he cannot be
all-powerful because he cannot control Satan.
Most atheists have no problem stating that a god so described
cannot possibly exist.
At that point, the redefining of “god” begins. If you don't
believe in Jehovah, can you at least admit that something created the
universe? The discussion then becomes interesting, if somewhat futile.
The first argument is that order cannot arise spontaneously from
chaos, and something must have caused it. Of course, order -does- arise
from chaos, and does so on a daily basis. Anyone who has ever seen a
snowflake has been presented with proof of this. A snowflake, unique and
yet perfectly symmetrical, is the epitome of order, and it came from the
ultimate work-a-day example of chaos—water vapor. Formless clouds give
rise to perfectly formed snowflakes.
That doesn't preclude the existence of a god, of course. But it
does defeat the argument that order cannot arise from chaos. Indeed, the
entire universe did that, and what's more, we know the mechanism that
caused it. It's the very same thing that causes an ice skater to rotate
faster when he pulls his arms in. Everything we see in the universe came
from gas clouds that began to rotate just like water swirling down a
drain, and as they developed enough mass to have a gravitational focus to
draw themselves in, they rotated faster, which further compacted them.
Everything. Galaxies, stars, planets. Saturn's rings. All solid matter
came from that action. If there is a god, his name might be Conservation
of Angular Momentum.
It still happens, which is why we know about it, and it offers no
evidence, one way or the other, for a divine intervention.
My turn. I get to redefine order.
When we say “order” we're talking about our own limited
perceptions. I'm writing this at a desk that is 99.9999% “not there”. The
space between the atoms that make up my desk is far vaster than the size
of the atoms themselves, and only the very tiniest percentage of my desk
is anything other than a perfect vacuum. I really have to get a new desk.
But it holds my computer up and gives the dog a place to hide during
thunderstorms, so, “there” or not, it's perfectly serviceable as a desk.
It gets worse at the quantum level. Just the mere existence of
the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (HUP) and the Observer Effect give
rise to Indeterminacy, which precludes our ever knowing "reality." The
HUP says that it is possible to know the location of an atom but not its
momentum, or we can determine the momentum, but not the location. If we
cannot observe the foundation of our universe in time and space
simultaneously, we cannot understand the ultimate roots. The Observer
Effect states that the action of measuring something affects its actual
state. For instance, if you stick a room-temperature thermometer in a pot
of boiling water, the thermometer absorbs some of the heat and cools the
water, if only by a millionth of a degree. This all leads to
Indeterminacy which is a fancy way of saying, “we don't know.”
Despite all this, we pretty much have concluded that at the
subatomic level, it's all random. Atoms move about in a completely
disorganized fashion as individual atoms, and only at the level where
there are several million atoms does something resembling 'consensus'
appear, and the atoms are, to lesser or greater degrees of stability, a
molecule. It's just a matter of luck that the air in your room stays put
and doesn't just arbitrarily bugger off somewhere, leaving you in a
vacuum even more perfect than your desk's. But don't worry; the odds are
in your favor. It won't happen. Probably.
All of quantum mechanics is descriptions of probabilities within
chaos. I just read a popular article the other day in which a physicist
is saying that gravity doesn't actually exist as its own entity, but is
rather a side effect of an entropic decay of space and time. In other
words, gravity came rapidly after the big bang, when the universe began
to decay. It was an afterthought, but one utterly necessary to form the
universe we live in. Without it, conservation of angular momentum doesn't
Would a consciousness that is comfortable at the quantum level,
and which probably views the actual universe as just sort of a side-
affect of the quantum dance, have any interest in human affairs? It
doesn't seem likely.
Kurt Vonnegut, the noted not-science fiction writer, came up with
the “Church of God the Utterly Indifferent”. The fictional church
believed that God created the universe and wandered off, unaware that he
had created the universe (much the way a rabbit drops a pellet) and the
Church, recognizing that they are the victims of a string of
extraordinary accidents, give thanks to God for His Utter Indifference
that allows them their freedom to function as human beings.
The “universe creator” could be a consciousness. It could be a
higher consciousness. But is it a God? Gods are defined as being superior
beings, often immortal, with an interest, for better or worse, in human
affairs. There isn't much point in propitiation if they don't concern
themselves with us, and there's little reason to suppose a god of the
quantum spaces, exemplified by Vonnegut, would match the description of
This suggests that if a consciousness created the universe, it
was utterly and thoroughly alien to anything we've ever experienced—or
The ultimate degraded definition of God has him present “before”
the Big Bang, but never a part of this universe. He exists, but outside
the Big Bang. The ultimately unknowable and unknown.
I treat the "Big Bang" as a mathematical construct, and one in
which a key piece of information is missing. There was nothing, and then
there was everything, in one atom-sized piece of something, which
promptly exploded. While it lacks the utter absurdity of all creation
myths, it isn't an answer, but merely conjecture. Same questions pertain:
why was there a big bang, and why did it happen? What changed?
At that point, the theist steps forward eagerly, finger upraised,
and says, “God did it!”
If God is eternal and created the Universe, you have to ask what
he was doing before he created it, and why he created it. If there was
nothing prior to the universe, why would there be an omnipotent god in
the middle of all that nothingness and what was the point of his
God has already spent an eternity in nothingness—and no, I'm not
sure the grammar and logic in that sentence work. Assuming that he was in
a stasis of nothingness for a long, long time, what would motivate him to
create a universe?
If the universe -had- to be created, then that begs the question,
what created the creator?
The usual response is, “God doesn't need a creator. God is
If God doesn't need a creator, the same applies to the universe.
It doesn't need a creator. Lacking evidence of a need for same, I regard
it as unnecessary clutter until shown otherwise. I'm not saying some sort
of god isn't possible; I'm just saying that one isn't NEEDED for a good
theory of how it all began.
And the only type of creation entity that logically works is one
that created the universe as a sort of a byproduct, since the type of
consciousness needed to create the universe from the ground up isn't one
compatible with human affairs.
At that point the definition of god has been broadened – or
depreciated – to the point where it's just a sort of big ghost, incapable
of leaving any physical evidence of its existence. That god could
exist simply because there is no evidence in either direction that it
exists. It would seem a rather pointless sort of god, and I doubt it's a
definition that many believers in god will accept. But ok – I think we
can all admit that there's room in the universe for a big ghost. Nobody
can disprove the Big Ghost, which is the whole idea.
I think it's unlikely in the extreme that we will know anything
about what exists (if anything) "outside" or "before" the universe. But,
lacking any evidence to the contrary, the supposition that some
being with infinite powers did it just strikes me as a lazy shortcut.
"God magicked it" may be emotionally reassuring for some, but it is
utterly intellectually sterile. It isn't an answer; it's a cut off point
at which people are invited to stop considering the matter anyfurther.
But what's the point in believing in something that is
insubstantial, unprovable, and uninvolved with human affairs? What, in a
Big Ghost, merits belief?
Posted: February 4, 2011