Something from nothing and believing in everything

The eternally recurring argument from Christians against, not just atheism, but classic agnosticism, is that non-believers in their demand for evidence, are ignoring the biggest chunk of evidence one could hope to find, if only they would open their eyes and stare at the majesty of the world around them; that the universe itself is here and so therefore, by definition had to have come from somewhere or something.

We don’t yet know how the first multicellular organisms formed, which over hundreds of millions of years, through natural selection, would eventually give rise to humans. Nor do we fully understand what happened previous to the big bang, in order for the Earth and the planets beyond to form in the first place. What we do know, is that in the face of our inability to determine these factors, at present, we’re expected, instead, to allow or at least not rule out the possibility that a supernatural intelligence of some kind, may have instigated these events.

The problems with that argument, in terms of seeking, much less providing empirical evidence of it, would be diminished somewhat, if nothing more was assigned to this kind of so-called “first cause” argument than just that. If the it / he / she or they being alluded to was expanded upon no further than being simply beyond our ability to comprehend, detect or ever even hope to understand, there wouldn’t be anything to argue about because there wouldn’t be anything to assume we might learn more from. But all too many of those who adopt this position, perhaps in recognition of this fact, immediately begin to imbue it with the theological characteristics of the particular religion they happen to have an understanding of. What started as a reasonable enough argument, very quickly becomes anthropomorphised into an argument in favour of the God of the bible, or the Qur’an, or any one of a hundred other gods from ancient myth.

This idea that you can borrow from the theology of your chosen religion, to flesh out the character and mind of what, just a second earlier, was a perfectly acceptable argument for classic agnosticism, plagues the mind of those who smugly fall back on anthropic reasoning, as it is known, just as soon as it occurs to them that, in so doing, they have made a rod for their own back. That is to say, they give form and a character to that which just so happens to fit their pre-existing beliefs and pay no mind to the non-sequitur they have committed to, which says that because X cannot be disproved, Y is therefore a fact.

This gives rise to another of many logically inconsistent arguments often given by those who preface their theistic position with the disclaimer that even if it were possible to prove their was no God, they wouldn’t want to live in a universe bereft of faith. They assign the power to create an entire universe to a particular God from a particular religion and yet, at the very same time, claim their faith is based upon a refusal to accept that “this is all there is” that there “must be something out there”, when in practise this isn’t the kind of God into which they place their trust on matters ranging from politics and education to economics and social activism. They live their life as if Yahweh observes their every action, while paradoxically claiming evil is the cause of their wrong doing, or the wrong doing of someone from whom they happen to disagree.

To claim such things in all humility, speaks to the arrogance of the religionist’s unthinking mind. To assert that those of us who are unwilling to suspend our disbelief at such nonsense are therefore destined to be tortured for eternity, is masochistic at best and, pleasingly enough, by that very same logic, also, therefore, the very thing which proves, even if there were to be such a place as heaven, a feature of being among its membership would be to know that while the saved take in the pleasing views, those of us down below are being perpetually tormented for no other reason than that we dared to think for ourselves; if not with perfect clarity, certainly the temerity to hold intellectual honesty ahead of self-delusion.

As for the origins of the universe or life on Earth, it should be obvious that we wouldn’t know about the intricacies of the human body, or the vast distances between galaxies, or the way in which space-time bends around objects with sufficient mass or the indeterminate nature of the electrons inside the very device you are using to read these words, if rather than setting sail on the voyage of discovery begun by Euclid and Plato, set ashore by Newton and Dirac, we had instead sat around praying that the universe might be revealed to us in a vision.

No surgeon about to save the life of someone horribly crushed in a car accident, has ever secretly yearned for a return to the days when the most he could be expected to do was summon a priest. So let us not lose sight of the fact that while science might not have all the answers just yet, at least it doesn’t demand on pain of death that we pretend it does.

5 comments on “Something from nothing and believing in everything

  1. This article just hurt my brain . . . in a good way. My argument is always “what came before that?” If there was/is an intelligence that started everything, where did it come from? Honestly, I don’t think there’s anyway we will ever know the exact means in which everything became reality. I’ve let it go.

  2. Damn you! And Lawrence Krauss.

    I was quite happily sat here on my sofa, getting through my Saturday without exerting my mind too much, merely reading the mental dribblings of Joe C. on twitter and trawling my backlog of RSS feeds when I read your post and then watched the embedded video.

    Now I have a mind that is a maelstrom of half understood information and a desire to watch more.

    Next weekend I won’t be getting out of bed!

  3. B.Cause, watch it again. This information is so fascinating and so … new… its a hunger most of us forgot we had! While we may not understand everything, there is certainly a wealth of information we DO understand. Most people do not know this information — I think cosmology today is like evolution/natural selection was of the late 80’s. (That’s when I was a kid and heard about it all the time being a ‘bogus’ explanation for diversity on earth. Of course, I heard this from people who misrepresented the theory , in my opinion, willfully, but they may have just been too thick in religious rhetoric to think any other way.) ANYWAY, watch it again, and again… and ask questions! Dust off those cobwebs of apathy and think again!

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