Atheists annoy me.* I reckon they should learn to pass over in silence or embrace a logic with more than two truth values rather than run about exclaiming how “God Exists” is an obviously false proposition. The universe is a big and complicated place and just because not every sentence in the Christian bible is true, it doesn’t mean that they’re all false. It doesn’t mean that there is no God-like thing Out There, nor even that no religion gets it right or close to right. I don’t see why giving a proposition a value of “neither true or false” is any more demanding or dishonest than saying it’s false because there’s no evidence for its truth. Does God exist? Mu. I don’t know. I’m not even sure how to define the concept of God.
I dislike Russell’s teapot argument, brought up by Peter Atkins in the debate on Tuesday at Edinburgh University.
“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.”
No sensible person would believe it’s feasible that there is a teapot floating out in space between us and Mars, so we jump immediately to the truth value false, not a fence sitting don’t know. To me the crucial difference between this and a proposition about the existence of a god is that we have a rather thorough notion of what kind of a thing a teapot is. Teapots are constructed by humans and the most likely way a teapot could get into orbit around Mars is if a human put it there. It’s unlikely NASA ever launched a teapot orbiter probe, therefore it’s fairly safe to conjecture that there is no teapot. (Though if I worked for NASA I’d probably sneak a teapot into a probe if I got the chance.) But the existence of a something that constructed the universe, something we don’t understand, not necessarily a white-cloak semi-Santa Claus figure, is a very different “thing”. We don’t know a lot about that kind of thing, other than that (if it exists…) it/he/she/them makes universes (and recursively makes itself?).
Even if there were a God like thing Out There, what’s to stop us studying its properties? In science often an object is conjectured to exist to try to make sense of some phenomena before it’s understood. Religion isn’t inconsistent with science or modern philosophy (I think?).
Religions also have their own evolution—intriguingly enough given how they’re often associated with anti-evolutionary ideas. One needs only look at the increase in the number of ministers who are (out) gay or women (from zero) in the Church of England, for instance. Views change. Interpretations of the bible evolve.
In the meantime, here’s an interpretation of the Christian Holy Trinity that came to me in a moment of… divine inspiration… in the pub. The gist:
- Father (Parent)
- Son (Child)
- Holy Spirit
As a first approximation, map these to:
- Originator and transmitter of genetic material
- Recipient of genetic material
- Conscious magic stuff
So, the trinity is actually a specification of all humans (animals? organisms?): everyone is child, potentially a parent, and has conscious experience. God is everyone and everyone is god. This specification seems hippy-friendly, which is a good thing I reckon. One problem is that not everyone has children, and I don’t want such people (for the moment I am one of them) to be seen as second-class organisms, so let’s generalise the genetic material to “information”.
I tried this idea out on a few hardened atheists and they didn’t seem too impressed. They do take their belief very seriously.
* Update: They annoy me less now it’s not 2007 and I’m an atheist.