Today I got an email from Michael in response to my “Morality comes from nature, not God” post. I was intrigued by what he had to say. Particularly the part where he suggests that I am God.
I like that hypothesis. A lot. I just wish there was more evidence for it than I’ve been able to dredge up.
Michael wrote me a thoughtful message. I don’t agree with most of what he said, but I appreciate the sharing. Here’s my paragraph by paragraph response to his email. (Michael’s words are in italics, mine in regular type).
An interesting though not new approach to discussing the question of God. Your whole premise is an avoidance of getting to the bottom of the question.
Gosh, that’s news to me. I’m 58. I’ve spent the past forty years trying to dive into the depths of “Does God exist?” Plus, “What’s the meaning of it all?” and “What the heck is ‘it’ anyway?” More than forty if you count listening to a lot of Bob Dylan from age sixteen to eighteen.
If the question is… Does God exist? or From whence does morality come?
As above, yes, #1 of yours is my main question. #2 has been a subsidiary query. I’ve never considered that “God” and “morality” necessarily had much to do with each other. Buddhists are highly moral but don’t believe in God. Ditto with Taoists.
Still, I’m certainly interested in from whence morality comes. As I am in from whence the whole universe comes—a more interesting question.
Then the honest questioner must not be satisfied with a half answer. Ex. Morality comes from nature. OK Where does nature come from? (This is what I mean by a half answer.)
Yes, absolutely. The Big Bang banged the nature of everything into existence. What lies beyond, or beneath, or before the Big Bang? Great question. Scientists are working on it like crazy. They’ve made good progress.
Then lets assume you take a popular answer… Nature occurred accidentally… Big Bang or billions of years of accumulated accidents that resulted in life (The necessary increasing complexity occurring accidentally is not demonstrated ANYWHERE in scientific study over long periods of time.)
What science books have you been reading? I’ve read dozens of them. None from the Creation Science Institute though. That probably explains why we’re coming from different understandings of modern science.
“Accident” isn’t a scientific way of explaining things. “Randomness” sometimes is used, but even here it’s agreed that randomness and order are two sides of the same coin. Random quantum fluctuations at the moment of the Big Bang are theorized to be the seed material, so to speak, that led to the large scale structure of the cosmos.
Quantum mechanics is anything but accidental, though. It’s predictable to a fault. Quantum theory makes possible modern technology, including the computer you used to write “Nature occurred accidentally.” You may believe that. Science doesn’t.
Evolution, to give another example, is utterly non-accidental. Nature selects for the most adaptive characteristics of living beings. Those aren’t “accumulated accidents” as you said, but accumulated selections.
Evolutionary theory is exceedingly well proven. The mistake you make is saying that science hasn’t found evidence of increasing complexity occurring “accidentally.” Of course it hasn’t. Science looks for (and finds) order in the universe, not accidents. Even chaos is hidden order.
You are demonstrating faith against all reason. That’s different than faith in something that is based on reason… although to be faith it must be believing / trusting in something bigger than us and beyond our full understanding.
Not sure what you’re saying here. I’ve just talked quite reasonably, in my eminently reasonable opinion. I do have faith in science. And, to a lesser degree, in mysticism—insofar as it is looked upon as the study of the subtleties of consciousness.
Both science and mysticism accept that there is more to know about the cosmos than what we know now. That seems obvious. Concerning the big cosmic questions of life, we’re clueless. Me, you, whoever else is reading this. All of us.
Quantum physics is beyond our full ability to see and directly know. We can however predict and imagine it. However, we don’t trust in it as a living “god” like being to direct our lives and so it falls short of religious faith.
Yes. I agree. We’ve found some common ground!
So all I am saying is that you are throwing out God because of personal reasons (anger / frustration with God and the life you have, or with religious people who don’t demonstrate the good qualities God is supposed to have, or etc.). You are not however really answering your own question. You are avoiding it by providing a half answer… Nature is the source of morality (meaning and direction for life).
Well, I guess you’re right: I am indeed throwing out God for personal reasons. What other reasons could I have? There is no demonstrable evidence that God exists, and there is no absolute, 100%, irrefutable, ironclad evidence that God doesn’t exist. So each of us has to decide on our own how we feel about the big question, “Does God exist?”
Here’s the thing though (which I’ve borrowed from Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” book). A reasonable person, like me and Dawkins, considers probabilities in the absence of certainties. What is the probability of nature being the source of morality vs. God being the source?
We can sense nature. We know a lot about nature. We can delve into the inner workings of nature. God, on the other hand, is a mystery. If He/She/It exists, this ultimate reality works in mysterious ways. So mysterious, there are no signs of those ways.
Thus until God shows up as an evident force in the physical universe, I’ll place my bet on natural causes as the source of what surrounds us. And, is us.
Lastly, I don’t think I’m angry or frustrated with God and the life I have. I’m a positive person, by and large. It pisses me off sometimes that I haven’t made more progress in figuring out the big questions of life we’ve been talking about. But I have a lot of company. Again, at heart we’re all clueless.
It is a very convenient statement. It really says YOU are GOD. Because nature is up to interpretation and YOU are the interpreter. So, whether you realize it or not, YOU are your own self proclaimed god. You are afraid to trust in any other god / God.
Hey, I’d love to be God. I tried it for a while, but thirty-four years of marriage have driven my divinity out of me. I’ve learned that Wife is God.
But seriously…(hope my wife doesn’t read those two words) I’m not proclaiming myself to be God. No way. This whole Church of the Churchless blog rests on the premise that I don’t know who God is, or more basically, if God is. Do you?
Seriously, tell me. Do you know that God exists? For sure?
Thankfully you are not My God. Because, I have a suspicion that you would judge me harshly and not graciously and the terms of your judgments would probably change like a tide based on your emotions and needs and etc. Wow! What a terrible God that would be to serve!
I don’t think I’d judge you harshly. Again, I’m basically a positive person. Except when I hear about the idiocies of the Bush Administration. If you’re not a Republican who holds higher office I can embrace you whole-heartedly. (But, um, not in the way that the nation’s recently dethroned evangelical leader would.)
I hope you don’t remain satisfied with your answer and continue searching for a real God, not a manufactured self-made god who is almost certainly a harsh and unreliable judge, not just of others but of yourself also.
Oh, don’t worry. I’m certainly searching for a real God. That’s why I’m so sour on religion. We agree that self-made gods are way inferior to the genuine item (again, assuming that it exists). Where we differ is on the question of who is making up beliefs that aren’t real.
I say religious believers. You say me. I say, I’ve got the facts on my side.
Tell me: where is your evidence for a God who isn’t manufactured out of human cognition, intellection, emotion, or imagination? I’m a vegetarian, but where’s the beef?
Lastly, I’m not the one who has made up a god who is a harsh and unreliable judge. I think you’re confusing me with the Old Testament.
Thanks for the article. Best of luck!
You’re welcome. I look forward to receiving your gift of luck. Much appreciated.
The idea that morality is genetic seems a rather long way around to something a bit simpler, that our biology drives our morality.
Our extended neoteny and other physical limitations make cooperative behavior an imperative survival strategy. Whether you call it pack or tribe or society is immaterial, cooperation will force societal behavior, the pack must benefit from an individual's presence and the individual must benefit from belonging to a pack. This enforces ordered behavior that is of mutual benefit. The fact that mutual benefit is codified into a term morality does not change its basis, in order to survive certain behaviors must be curtailed and certain behaviors must be encouraged. The closer to the edge of survival the more stringent the penalties for "immoral" behavior.
My belief in God does not require a Church or Religion, nor does it require that God be the arbiter of morality.
Posted by: Chuck Butcher | November 05, 2006 at 12:57 AM
"We can sense nature. We know a lot about nature. We can delve into the inner workings of nature. God, on the other hand, is a mystery. If He/She/It exists, this ultimate reality works in mysterious ways. So mysterious, there are no signs of those ways".
With respect, we do not know a lot about nature directly. What we know are thoughts and sensations of what we call objective nature.
This is why Immanuel Kant said we cannot know the 'thing in itself'. All we know are mentally mediated sense impressions and concepts.
This is why David Hume suggested that we cannot know for sure if any objective world separate from mind and senses actually has any existence.
The acceptance of an objective world of nature wholly and totally separate from the sense perceptions and mental constucts of such, is a leap of faith.
Forget faith in God, how about faith in something wholly objective, wholly material and wholly devoid of any meaning and purpose giving rise to the subjective, the subtle and the purposive!
With respect, chance is constantly invoked as an explicans of life the universe and everything by fundamentalist materialist reductionists.
For example, some cosmologists in order to shore up the 'chance paradigm' are now theorising untold billions of other universes in order to account for ours by a role of the dice. All this rather than admit that the universe may be self organising and pump primed from the big bang onwards to develop life and intelligence in biological structures.
I would suggest that nature is also infinitely mysterious.
Posted by: Nick | November 06, 2006 at 01:11 AM
Nick is making some sense here, and continuing from the Jaynes discussion, the "most real" things in my world come from inside my body, without the intermediary of thought or emotion, (or belief). So voices or vomit, pain or blood, the default setting in assessing the set "facts" will always be here and now, not speculation of any organizing principle, whether biblicly or scientificly commanded.
It is as silly to ask if God exists as to ask if the universe exists. Both can be the source of the voices. Or the bang-thing.
Posted by: Edward | November 06, 2006 at 04:50 AM
Hi there, again.
Just scanning some of your comments. If you don't mind, some of my thoughts upon reading ...
"until God shows up as an evident force in the physical universe, I’ll place my bet on natural causes as the source of what surrounds us. And, is us."
- God has shown up! Shall I go on about this?
"Both science and mysticism accept that there is more to know about the cosmos than what we know now. That seems obvious."
- because science and mysticism acknowledge and accept their limitations DOES NOT = God is unknowable
"Concerning the big cosmic questions of life, we’re clueless. Me, you, whoever else is reading this. All of us."
- Sorry, dear. Wrong. We are not all clueless, friend. You CAN know the truth, if you are willing; Jesus said men love the darkness because their deeds are evil. He further said if any man will do His (God's) will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or [whether] I speak of myself.
In that light, consider your own comment!
"Well, I guess you’re right: I am indeed throwing out God for personal reasons. What other reasons could I have? There is no demonstrable evidence that God exists, and there is no absolute, 100%, irrefutable, ironclad evidence that God doesn’t exist. So each of us has to decide on our own how we feel about the big question, “Does God exist?”
Well, if you don't know now, there is a day coming, and you WILL know!!!! "Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father." Isn't that wonderful!?
Have you read the New Testament book of Romans? How about Hebrews? It's where the rubber meets the road!!!!!!!!!! Good stuff!
This blogging is kinda fun!
Posted by: mssoteria | November 09, 2006 at 02:53 PM
Note to Chuck:
The issue is not what YOUR belief requires ("my belief in God does not require ... (He) be the arbiter of morality"); the issue is what does GOD require?
He HAS deemed Himself the arbiter of morality, with perfect right. His creation, His laws, His way ...
The wisdom of man is foolishness with God.
Posted by: mssoteria | November 09, 2006 at 04:19 PM
When you find out who "Brian" actually is, the accusation of being "God" will appear in a new light. . . :-)
Posted by: Matthew | December 21, 2006 at 07:55 AM