Is There a God?


Is There a God?
Richard Blake

One of my readers has asked whether I believe in God and whether I regard myself as a Christian. This is a highly personal question, and I might feel at liberty not to reply. However, since my novels all deal in various ways with religious matters, I feel I have lost the right to silence. So the short answer to both parts of the question is yes. This being said, I pass to what may be seen as the less than satisfactory details.

When I look at the world, I see what appears to be great complexity in its structure and great regularity in its motions. There are others, I have no doubt, but I can think of three main hypotheses for why this should be so.

First, nothing exists but atoms moving at random through a void. They have always existed and always will exist. Given enough time, there is no reason why these random movements should not result in collisions and the growth of large clusters of atoms. These may form complex structures that move with each other in an appearance of regularity. Our minds are as much a part of this random process as a speck of dust that floats between two galaxies. Perhaps this will all dissolve again before I have finished this article. Perhaps it will continue for millions of death after the atoms of my own mind and body have separated and rejoined into other structures. I do not know.

Second, there is a Supreme Being who created the universe and populated one or more parts of it with sentient beings, all with some ability to perceive their origin.

Third, I am God, and, for reasons I cannot presently explain, have created at least the appearance of a universe that may continue to exist even when I am not looking at it.

Each of these hypotheses is a full if different explanation of everything that is perceived. None implies a contradiction, and so is equally possible. I am not aware of any external criterion for judging one over the other. None can be proved or disproved. I could suspend judgement and get on with the rest of my life. Instead, I choose to believe the second, that there is a God. You are welcome to choose otherwise.

Now, belief in a Supreme Being is one thing. Belief in a specific revelation is another. Did God speak to Moses on Mount Sinai? Did he send his only son to redeem us of our sins? Did he send a final prophet to clear up such misunderstandings as may have attended earlier efforts to enlighten us? Is Christ made or begotten? Has he one nature or two? Has he one will or two? Is the whole of revelation confined to a single text? Or is it supplemented by several thousand years of tradition? I have no idea, and see no value in trying to form one.

All I will say is that God may be like the Internet. Some of us access it with a Windows-Intel computer, others with an Android telephone. There are many other means of access. Once there, we have the same choice of data. All that really counts is bandwidth and stability of the connection. So it may be with God.

Or perhaps there is some standard of judgement between religions. Bearing in mind that God has gone to the trouble of creating us as social beings, and bearing in mind that, if there are natural differences between every individual, there is no evidence of supernatural differences, and bearing in mind that we all have a propensity for preferring happiness to unhappiness, it seems reasonable that our conduct while we are alive is watched, and that there is some reckoning once we are dead. This being so, it may be that we are expected to avoid making others unhappy, which entails a general respect for their autonomy. This being so, things like human sacrifice, inquisitions, systematic indifference to the well-being of other groups, and suicide bombing, all indicate a misunderstanding of the divine mind.

Therefore, I am a broad church Anglican. This is the historic religion of my country. It is part of a web of customs and institutions that I find comforting and that I believe do conform to the mind of God. It is a faith that does not spread or maintain itself by persecution, and it has sustained the English liberal tradition.

But this is not to state any doctrine of exclusive salvation. In other circumstances, I might easily be a humanist Catholic, or a liberal Jew, or a Sufi Moslem. We have a right to our own happiness, and a duty to promote the happiness of those round us. Whatever religion is congruent with this right and duty has a claim to be true.

Such, for what it may be worth, is the faith of Richard Blake.

Richard Blake’s new novels, The Break and Crown of Empire, both came out in April 2016.

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55 comments

  • Primacy of Existence vs. Primacy of Consciousness is the most basic and fundamental principle in philosophy.

    The primacy of existence view is essentially the assertion of the inescapable axiom that “existence exists.”

    According to the primacy of existence view – the universe exists independent of consciousness, indeed, of any consciousness. Things are simply what they are, they possess a specific nature, a specific identity.
    A necessary corollary of this view is the axiom that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists – and that man gains knowledge of reality by looking outward.

    The rejection of these axioms represents a basic fundamental reversal: the primacy of consciousness.

    The primacy of consciousness is the peculiar assertion that the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness (either human or divine or both).

    The epistemological corollary is the notion that man gains knowledge of reality by looking inward (either at his own consciousness or at the revelations it receives from another, superior consciousness).

    Ayn Rand identified the psycho-epistemological source of this error in ITOE and Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged.
    Essentially it rests on the inability or unwillingness to fully grasp “the difference between one’s inner state and the outer world, i.e., between the perceiver and the perceived (thus blending consciousness and existence into one indeterminate package-deal). This crucial distinction is not given to man automatically; it has to be learned. It is implicit in any awareness, but it has to be grasped conceptually and held as an absolute.”

    I can well appreciate how a Humean – someone who has not yet grasped the difference between the process of consciousness and its content – might well be led astray but as we have discussed this before with regard to realism and Ayn Rand, OPAR and David Kelley’s “Evidence of the Senses,” I will leave this topic here.

    • I don’t know about you, but all I am directly aware of is the contents of my own mind. Admitting the existence of anything else requires a leap of faith as great and as *logically* unjustifiable as belief in God. If you think the existence of an unperceived universe is a certain fact, good luck to you.

      • I am always (mildly) amused by sciencism’s assertion that they alone have the truth based on ‘scientific fact’ and everything else is a “belief system” (said phrase to be visualized as coming from a sneering countenance). Given that all we perceive and all we ‘know’ is a product of our individual minds, I find such assertions to be as dogmatic as those from the most rabid ‘fundamentalist’, whatever his tint.

    • John w.

      Neither of the false dichotomies holds any truth content without the need to use such information for consequent decision in the furtherance of action. Ergo, the primacy if action.

      The primacy of action, and therefore reality, was eliminated by the monotheistic religions, platonic philosophers, theologians.

      And as in all cases of undecidability ( informational or paradoxical ) undecidability is the result of deprecation of a necessary property, or substitution of a false property. Both deprecation and substitution work so effectively to deceive man because we are such easy prey to the deceit of suggestion. ( which Judaism, Christianity, Islamist, Marxism, neoconservatism, rothbardianism rely upon.

      So the question cannot come into existence without the necessity of action. And once we correct the deceit, we find that in order to act in reality we must imagine alternatives in consciousness.

      This decidability in consciousness is determined by the difference in correspondence between imagination and reality.

      And we use various methods to test those imaginings for correspondence.

      Ergo recipes, numbers, formulae, procedures, algorithms, narrative descriptions, and myths.

      Gods exist as numbers exist.

      Gatherings of masses provide the pack response – creating an extended family from potential enemies competitors, and those unknown to us.
      Myth provides common means of decidability that limits conflict and promotes cooperation.
      Prayer of various kinds to an omniscient God helps us speak honestly to our subconscious and helps us avoid self deception.
      Ritual of various kinds solve the problem of mental discipline we call mindfulness.

      All of theses tools help us compensate for no longer living in consanguineous bands where the mind and body is a collective experience much like that if wolf or dig packs – or our predatory ape cousins.

      Gods exist like numbers exist.

      And they provide the same value to us as numbers, formulae, recipe, procedure, narrative and myth: assistance in decidability without which decisions for most humans in kaleidoscope reality is stressful.

      Can we live without gods? Certainly. Can we live without the narratives in anthropocentric form? Well evidently not because we must all learn in the same sequence:

      Imitation, heroes ( virtue ethics ), rules ( rule ethics), outcomes ( outcome ethics). Just as we learn to interact with the physical world through body, tool, machine, engine, information.

      We have tried to replace church and myth with school, reason, and academy. And with craft, engineering and science.

      But we only succeeded with replacing church with mass media and the second great lie of oppression: boazian, Marxist , Freudian, feminist pseudoscience and its cultural companion cultural Marxism postmodernism and political correctness.

      This new religion has been as successful as the last great lies.

      So shall we return to the first great lies of Judaism, Christianity and Islam? Shall we retain the second great lies of oppression of Marxism, boazian, Freudian, cultural Marxism.? Shall we restore our ancient religion of nature and hero worship – this remains a contender at all times in every era but non can profit from rent seeking using it so it stalls. Or will we modernize our ancient religions into a new correspondent narrative with new rituals and new methods of information distribution?

      Whatever we do, the problem of collective decidability and training the animal man to act as a domesticated human will continue.

      I am a Catholic raised in Protestant culture.
      I believe in God just as I believe in numbers.

      I believe Jesus and Paul spoke in mystical language of slaves. And could not speak in the aristocratic language of Greek nobility.

      But in that dishonest language was an honest and innovative message: if we extend kinship love to non kin and respect one another’s property in all its forms then we will prosper. Because by doing so we create trust. That most scarce of commodities.

      And the source of economic velocity.

      Curt Doolittle
      The Propertarian Institute
      Kiev, Ukraine.

      • I would have to respectfully disagree with you claim that Paul could not speak to nobility. He was a Roman citizen and highly educated.

        If we do not assert our rights are absolute because they come from God, then we have no defense against government’s claim that it dictates to us what privileges we hold. We have no rights.

      • Curt, This is unintelligible nonesense; a stream of consciousness with no attempt at understanding reality.

        I am with JW & Ayn Rand: There is (existence) something (identity) of which I am aware (consciousness).

        The question on the existence or not of a sky fairy is therefore answered with: “There is nothing to be aware of”.

        Pointing to the complexity of nature is not evidence.

        To believe in a supernatural being, beyond nature & consciousness, is outright nonsense and a long since out competed “view” that is a remnant of mankind’s move into consciousness , as outlined by Julian Jaynes in his theory of the bicameral mind.

        • (Actually it’s extremely DENSE and requires a great deal of knowledge to parse, and I certainly don’t respect the reader sufficiently, but since people can and do parse it I’ll have to stand my ground on the content.)

      • No.

        ‘Action’ is NOT a fundamental axiom because action is not an irreducible primary.

        It is entirely dependent on the prior axioms of existence and consciousness [and identity] for example, when we discern the difference between the ‘actions’ of consciousness and the ‘actions’ of existence.

        I quote from Galt’s Speech:

        “Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.

        If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness.

        Whatever the degree of your knowledge, these two – existence and consciousness – are axioms you cannot escape, these two are the irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake, in any part of your knowledge and in its sum, from the first ray of light you perceive at the start of your life to the widest erudition you might acquire at its end. Whether you know the shape of a pebble or the structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same: that it exists and that you know it.”

        • Well, you know, if you knew the metaphysical canon, Rand would not be someone you would quote.

          Here, let’s try it this way:

          Firstly, existence cannot come into question unless an actor capable of acting must act. To act requires not only memory, but a model, whereas to merely respond does not. A frog may seem cunning until you realize that they just jump into the first dark they can see. To act requires we choose between options in a model. (This is why we only can visualize a few things at once. It’s the minimum needed to construct a pair of models to choose between.) We cannot evolve the construction of a model sufficient for action without sufficient correspondence of our model with existence.

          So in simple terms, “you can’t get to posing the question without first having to act.”
          Or to restate your position: “we cannot possibly consider existence without first having passed through the evolutionary stage where we develop the ability to act. I have this subconscious desire to flesh this out in more detail, but hopefully the point will come across and I don’t need to spend another twenty minutes of my life on it.

          Secondly, the difference between the LOGICAL example you use with rand (a question of set membership) and my example, is sequence in time: OPERATIONAL construction. A test of existential possibility. “is there a way to make this happen”. FWIW: this is what mises failed to understand when he stumbled into economic operationalism and tried to cast it as a logic of deduction instead of a test of constructability.

          Thirdly, axiomatic systems (informationally complete) are declarative, and do not exist except as models of correspondence. Whereas reality is and forever must be modeled by descriptive, theoretic (informationally incomplete) statements. We speak of scientific (existential) laws, and we speak of llogical axioms. We use axioms to test internal consistency, and laws to test external (empirical) consistency.

          The reason I have had to complete the ‘scientific’ method (testimonialism) is to overthrow the second great set of lies produced by the cosmopolitans as a reformation of Jewish mysticism: deceit through suggestion and overloading. The great problem of our age is not envisioning possibilities but eliminating error, bias, wishful thinking, suggestion, pseudoscience and deceit, that have been used to destroy our great civilization from within.

          Curt Doolittle
          The Propertarian Institute
          Kiev, Ukraine

          • “Firstly, existence cannot come into question unless an actor capable of acting must act. ”

            No.

            ‘What is?’ comes after ‘That is.’

    • Here’s how I look at “primacy of existence versus primacy of consciousness”:

      There once was a metaphysician,
      Who asked, in time-honoured tradition,
      “Is the Universe real?
      Or just something I feel?”
      He couldn’t prove either position.

      • You cannot prove the self-evident.
        The only person who would try to do that would be someone who doesn’t know what a proof is.

  • Sean, that’s exactly the point I am making – you assume, like Hume, that the dynamic realm of perception is “in” the mind.
    It isn’t.
    The form of perception cannot be located “in” us, in the way you presume, a fact identified not just by Rand but by most English realists a century ago, and even by the Greeks.

    • I perceive impressions, not objects. The origin of these impressions may be objects, but that is not something open to proof.

    • Perception is the action of the mind. Perception is not a thing, but a phenomenon. It is like asking where the “computing” is in a computer. It isn’t anywhere. Computing is what something does.

      Perception is thus the action of the brain in response to stimuli supplied by sensors. This quite clearly occurs within the brain. Every brain responds slightly differently to sensory stimuli and thus the impression of the world generated by perception is unique to the individual. If we presume that there is an outside world which is the same for all beings, it still produces unique subjective reactions in every brain and there is no way around that. We can communicate due to our perceptions mostly being sufficiently similar.

      The striking thing about Rand’s philosophy to me is how superficially she thought about many issues. Her lack of understanding of Hume’s fact/value distinction is notable in this regard.

  • “I perceive impressions, not objects.”

    Is exactly what Hume said, but he was mistaken – Hume had been misled by Descartes. [Kant built on Hume exacerbating his error – and the result destroyed The Enlightenment.]

    You perceive reality NOT impressions of reality.

    “The origin of these impressions” is a beguiling locution which seems scientific and modern but is rather ancient.

    • You are making no sense. I perceive colours and other qualities, never external objects. I believe these qualities are in some sense caused by these objects and have arranged my life on the belief. But I fail to see how this belief can be proven in any philosophical sense. Your argument is a mix of unsupported assertion and argument from authority. Please explain how I perceive objects.

      • No. You do not perceive sensations and other qualities – sensations as components of percepts are not direct features of your experience.

        Although, chronologically, man’s consciousness develops in three stages: the stage of sensations, the perceptual, the conceptual – epistemologically, the base of all of man’s knowledge is the perceptual stage.

        If you proceed thus: sensations > percepts > concepts then you are doomed to scepticism [and ultimately religion.]
        The proper procedure is: percepts > concepts/sensations as most English realists understood a century ago.

        Can I prove this?

        No.

        But proof is merely a narrow subdivision with the wider genus of validation.

        Percepts, the awareness of entities [not sensations] as the given foundation of proof is axiomatic.

        All this is in OPAR, ITOE and Kelley – where he goes into detail about the history of this subject all the way back to Theaetetus [who got it right.]

        But the best exposition by far is Ayn Rand’s.

        [Did Chris Tame never discuss this topic with you Sean?]

        • Your first paragraph means nothing to me. Your second is irrelevant. Your third is correct, except you fail to explain why scepticism and religion are such bad things, especially when they appear to be the natural conclusion of any honest reasoning about the world. Your fourth is a combination of the first and second.

          I am aware of myself. I am aware of a series of sensory impressions that I believe are related to an external world, but the existence of which cannot be proven by any logical process. Belief in anything beyond my own present existence requires a leap of faith. It appears to be useful to make this leap, and so I make it. There is nothing more to be said.

          Since I write in clear English, why can’t an objectivist?

          • Once again, you are confusing the experience of consciousness with the content of consciousness.

            THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

            Let us return to the second paragraph: “EPISTEMOLOGICALLY, the base of all of man’s knowledge is the perceptual stage.”

            Sensations, as such, are not retained in man’s memory, nor is man able to experience a pure isolated sensation. As far as can be ascertained, an infant’s sensory experience is an undifferentiated chaos, but DISCRIMINATED AWARENESS begins on the level of PERCEPTS.

            A PERCEPT is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism which gives it the ability to be aware, not of single stimuli, but of entities, of things.

            It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. When we speak of “direct perception” or “direct awareness,” we mean the perceptual level.

            Percepts, NOT sensations, are the given, the self-evident.

            • I am unaware of your word “percept” and of the meaning you place on it. However, please explain by what set of impressions these percepts find their way into my mind.

              As for your claimed distinction between the experience and the content of consciousness, you appear to be using words that are unattached to things. Experience without content is as meaningless as content without experience.

              I repeat: I am aware of myself and of various impressions. An apparent lifetime of experience and a belief in future utility incline me to believe these impressions are connected with an external world. But I have no more direct knowledge of this external world than I have of God. Any alleged means by which I make sense of impressions may be interesting, but adds nothing to what I know of their origin.

  • I have always been a strong atheist, since about the age of 6/7 – in fact, since I first thought anything about the matter. I remember being given a King James Bible and having to go to Sunday School and thinking that what I was being told was nonsense. I also didn’t take very well to Christian morality/ethics. Injunctions such as ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ seem very odd and out-of-place to me, though I suppose that is hardly surprising since we are talking about things that were written in the ancient world, and the context and true meaning will have been lost.

    So my atheism isn’t an intellectual position really. It’s more an instinct, but over time I’ve developed the instinct into a general mechanistic/materialist position, and I’ve been influenced greatly by the writings of the autodidactic Marxist, John Keracher:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Keracher

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/keracher/1929/how-gods-made.htm

    I do find it very difficult to understand religious people, but I once spent about 6/7 months as a member and volunteer at an Anglican church, just to see what it was like and try and understand their point of view. I took a Bible Study Class, and I did learn a great deal about the Bible. We went through the whole thing, Old and New Testament, and it was very educational. However, despite understanding the ‘religious mind’ much better, I still can’t bring myself to believe in any sort of god.

    • Well, you’ll get no argument from me or Mr Blake. You’ve chosen one of the internally-consistent explanations, and I’m glad you find it satisfying.

    • On this one, I tend to side more with Sean. We do experience perceptions. Those perceptions are caused by phenomena which come from objects. That said, we can do more than merely accept our perceptions. We can look at them rationally, see if they are logical and consistent. We can come up with various ways of looking at this for the purpose of determining consistency.

      That said, I am a Christian, and addressing myself to John W, I would say you can achieve more certainty if you look at the evidence for the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible. I consider my faith to be fact-based. We all make leaps of faith about a great many things in life, and once you have examined the facts regarding the Bible and determined that these are true, the leap of faith isn’t that large. It is certainly far less large than some other things people have faith in (such as the theory of evolution, or global warming being man-caused). We have one lifetime to get it right, to face our eternal destiny. The world religions contradict each other. Either one of them is right and all the rest are wrong, or none are right. It is critically important to seek the answer that will allow you to achieve maximum happiness after death. We don’t know how long we have to accomplish this. We are fragile beings.

      And you can view it from the perspective of Pascal’s Wager. That’s not a cause of faith, but simply a reasoning exercise that may cause one to conclude that getting an answer is vitally important.

      Going back to experiencing perceptions, while I agree the Bible is totally accurate, without error, each of us filters what we read or hear through our minds with our own unique experiences. But if the exercises to determine the facts and logic are done carefully, it is my opinion that you can only come down on the side of the necessity of accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as total payment for our misdeeds. If we have ever violated our own standards, and we all have, we have misdeeds to account for, and we need Jesus. Just something to think about.

      By the way, in our household, we say that Ayn Rand espoused a Christian ethic (with the exception of her sexual views), but never acknowledged the source. The right to determine the fate of your own accomplishments is central, and fully in agreement with Christian ethics (although destroying someone else’s property is not, even if they violated your rights in creating it.) Selfishness, on the other hand, is a natural state, not a desirable goal. Civilization requires that we keep selfishness in its proper place. Harness it for the good.

  • A novelist need not discuss his novels, Sean.

    You seem to be utterly confused to me. We have no choice in belief. I cannot think of you, or of anything else, just as I wish, but rather I must believe that you are a male, that I am at home, and so on, to do with anything that I think is true.

    Regarding the God of the Christian theologians, a caring God rather than the atheistic God of Spinoza or Voltaire, who has no feelings for humans, I will say that no Christian believes in God and that the Christian dogmas are quite absurd.

    In particular, Christianity holds that all believers in God also sin, but that is not to take the idea of God seriously, as actual belief in an all seeing God would deter sin completely.

    The impact of such a true belief, instead of the normal sheer confusion that I referred to when I used to, honestly, say that I believed in God, up to about 1962, would even dissolve the rather powerful normal teenaged male heterosexual drive.

    Such a teenager simply could not dare to entertain sex outside of marriage. All-seeing God would be a complete deterrence. He would have no vital privacy.

    So sin, of any sort, would never arise for that reason too.

    But all Christians, by dogma, openly admit that sin does arise in all believers. Hence not even one of them ever took God seriously.

    So none of them truly believe! They are all merely confused.

    • I think you are obviously not in a position to say what Christians truly believe.

      If God prevented sin, then we would have no free will. If we have no free will, we are robots, and existence is meaningless. A caring God gave us a way out. We had no choice in whether we had a sin nature, so it is only just that He would bear our punishment, and eventually re-form us without sin, able to do His will consistently. And then you have the state of being you say the Christian God does not convey.

      I do not find consistency in your position, but I won’t do you the disservice of saying you don’t really believe what you say. It would be courteous on your part to reciprocate.

      Fortunately, neither of us is a mind reader.

    • Brooks Alexander

      You are living in a world of abstraction. The concrete reality of human nature is that we are often driven by irrational urges and appetites that demand their own satisfaction regardless of all other considerations. There is no reason to think things would be any different, even if God’s ”all-seeing-eye” was visible in the sky, so that no one had to “believe” anything.

      Interestingly, the emphasis in Christian morality is not on God’s omniscience as a deterrent to sinful behavior, but on individual character-formation: first, learning to care what God wants; then, learning how to behave accordingly.

  • I speak as a scientist, to perhaps illuminate Sean’s piece a little.

    Any more or less sane individual notices that there is a very, very great deal of order in the Universe. Certainly this is so at the level of interactions between particles of matter (of whatever kind) and at the level of energy interactions with matter. This order level is so critical in some respects that, had the relationship between certain forces and numbers been even slightly different from what we see, the observed Universe we inhabit could not exist, or would be hostile to life or uninhabitable.
    Some kinds of observed natural order, such as the membrane-protein rotor, are indeed so complex that they fool creationists into adopting the “intelligent design” hypothesis. This can be easily disproved by considering not only many many very marginal mutations over time, but also the sheer, enormous aeonic scale of time available. As I say to students “The Universe has all the time in the world!” Can you imagine “a million years”? (And that’s nowhere near enough either…)

    How did this order arise? Was it pre-existing? Is it built into the number-relationships I referred to? (See “Just Six Numbers” by Sir Martin Rees, now Lord Rees (former Astronomer-Royal)). Was there “time” before the Big Bang? Is the BB theory even correct? We do not know, for we are living at the Dawn of Time, so far as can be judged.

    I have also noted on here and elsewhere that I think the KJV Bible translation into English contained some errors. I’m told the original Greek word “logos” meant “order” or “logic”. I do not know; Sean can correct me here. Thus, a better translation of __ 1. John (i) __ would be perhaps “In the Beginning was Order”.
    Also, the committee probably balked as representing the Mother of Christ as a “young woman”, preferring perhaps the moral example of “Virgin” to be projected onto the miserable, lecherous, venal specimens populating their preachers’ pews.

    • Brooks Alexander

      “Logos” is a word with many meanings and usages. Its basic translation is “word,” signifying “meaningful utterance.” The broader applications of the word emphasize the aspect of “meaning” over “utterance”, so that among the Stoics, for example (following Herakleitos), “the word” was used to signify the divine power or function that gives the Universe its unity, coherence, and yes – its “meaning.” Some of John’s readers would have been aware of the fact that such a level of meaning was attached to the word – as John himself obviously was. In that context, the better translation of John 1:1 would probably be “In the beginning was the Ordering Principle, and the Ordering Principle was with God, and the Ordering Principle was God… etc., etc.

      • Brooks Alexander

        Or…if you wanted to give the concept of divinity the deeply personalized quality that is charactristic of the Christian faith, you could say “In the beginning was the organizing Urge…

    • Show me just ONE example of a marginal mutation, that wasn’t eliminated by Natural Selection because the bearer of this trait could not yet use the newly developing capability, and therefore it conveys no survivability.

      The Greek word “logos” indeed is related to the English word “logic”. I would hold that it is obvious that Christ is both the Word and also logic personified. He and his existence are totally logical.

  • It seems to me that the matter of order and complexity in the universe and the assertion that it is all somehow intentionally designed is just an anthropomorphic way of circumventing a frustrating circularity.

    There is an intelligent design to things, but it was and is unintentional, unplanned, motiveless and purposeless. We and other matter have just evolved this way. If we accept that all life forms have one sole physical imperative, which is to sustain themselves and reproduce, then the complexity and order that we see in the universe can be simply explained, can it not? To take the example of hominids, we have evolved eyes, ears, a brain, intelligence, etc., to enable us to survive and reproduce. To suppose that we have eyes to better appreciate the handiwork of supernatural beings is nothing more than childish fantasy, but it has to be conceded that what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and all other matter is that we can surmise a purpose to it all because we have a high degree of consciousness, intellect and imagination. The trouble is that we commit the intellectual error of confusing this surmised purpose – which we are free to ascribe to things so as to give life meaning and provide society with a sustainable moral and ethical code – with an actual purpose. What we recognise as ‘order’ is just whatever is the order of things that we perceive in so far as can understand it. It is not intentional. There is no moral force at work beyond the will to survive – and for me, that is moral enough. Re-order everything, give us typically twelve digits instead of ten, or a smaller hypothalamus, or whatever, and our intelligent equivalents would then imaginatively re-purpose everything.

    [quote]”This order level is so critical in some respects that, had the relationship between certain forces and numbers been even slightly different from what we see, the observed Universe we inhabit could not exist, or would be hostile to life or uninhabitable.”[unquote]

    The observed Universe or just our own planet or star system? I suspect the Big Bang Theory owes more to theological influences on key individual scientists rather than any real science – In the Beginning was the Word [or Order].. As humans, we are looking for order in things. A wild, disordered universe that is cold, amoral and purposeless isn’t very attractive to some. To me, it appeals greatly. It signifies something equating to the truest freedom possible. I wish I could live to see interstellar travel but I suspect those of us alive today will just miss on that.

    • “intelligent design to things, but it was and is unintentional, unplanned, motiveless” is an oxymoron.

      • No it isn’t. But much depends on what we mean by the terms ‘intelligent’ and ‘design’.

        Intelligence does not have to involve any purpose or motive. A rough analogy would be with a machine that is ‘intelligent’ in the sense that it can respond autonomously to its environment. The machine’s ‘intelligence’ doesn’t serve any purpose in and of itself and has no motive. Human intelligence is purposeless and motiveless. It is there to help us fulfil the imperative of survival and reproduction.

        Design does not necessarily have to impute intent, which relates to the now obsolete meaning of the word, which was to assign or appoint somebody to something. ‘Design’ can just signify a pattern.

        Evolution is an intelligent design. A designer or higher consciousness is not necessarily required, but we can intuitively recognise the signs of ‘design’ in Nature. This design is imply the outcome of evolution.

  • Meyer's Fusionist

    Having read the comments on here, I find it interesting the debate going on as though all of you are looking for material and scientific reasons to believe in God. None of you have talked about the spiritual reasons. By that I mean praying, a moral conscience and experiencing the supernatural. I would curious to know how many libertarians feel so at peace spiritually with God instead of proving that he exists materially and scientifically.

    Now it’s fascinating how some libertarians actually believe that God was the original libertarian. Maybe he was, after all, he always granted free will to his creation as proven in the book of Genesis and also in the first 5 books of the New Testament as taught by Jesus. However, with free will came boundaries and those boundaries pretty much made sure that neither yourself or another person got harmed hence why the 10 commandments came into force with Moses as the messenger for God reading out those commandments.

    As a non-denominational Christian, I feel no doubt that there is another life after this one and it gives me the peace to work in this life as best as I can before I can inherit that eternal rest in the Kingdom of Heaven that God has promised me.

    I know that I am not the only Christian who comes on here as I have noticed a few Traditional Catholics on here but even though we may have disagreements theologically, you can’t deny that there are quite a high percentage of libertarians who embrace the love and grace of God knowing that we have something to fight for in this life.

    • If you want spirituality, Mr Blake may not be your man.

      • Meyer's Fusionist

        I would beg to differ considering that Mr Blake writes about it quite a lot and that he is talking about the 3 in 1 God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Surely you would have to admit that spirituality plays a big role in the majority of his books?

        • I shall need to discuss this with him the next time we meet

          • Meyer's Fusionist

            Do you know I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with a double life, I hope it is not like Jekyll and Hyde or otherwise we would all be doomed. 😉

            • The other worrying thing is that, having viewed photos of Mr Blake, he does bear a striking resemblance to Dr Gabb.

              One fears that your suspicions might be correct and we may be dealing here with the more strident, Jungian shadow of Dr Gabb, hitherto unseen.

              Stephen King’s novel, The Dark Half, springs to mind:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Half

              • Indeed. God is so powerful that Mr Blake has to hide from Him behind a pseudonym.

                • Meyer's Fusionist

                  I wouldn’t go that far! 😉

  • Johannes Kantelberg

    The discussion here indicates there is a misunderstanding of what perception actually is. Understanding the nature of perception is one of the most problematic issues in philosophy. This paper disentangles the confusion: http://www.usabig.com/hwk/3b_hwk_perception.html

  • As an agnostic, my take on the subject is (unusually for me) rather gentler than those of most of the commenters on this thread. Here’s what I wrote in my book under the heading “A Place for Religion?”:

    As I said earlier, metaphysics has suffered much from those that have wanted to prove, or disprove, the existence of a god, or to promote, or take down, a particular religion. But the question remains: does my Be, my metaphysics, either require or contradict the existence of a god? I think the answer is “neither.”

    Now, the question “Is existence conscious?” is an interesting one. Or, otherwise put: Does the Universe, considered as a whole, have a mind, beyond the sum of the individual conscious minds it contains?

    I don’t know enough to answer this question Yes or No. But if the answer was Yes, such a mind could be similar to the ancient Stoic “logos,” the “Word” of St. John’s gospel.

    Also, there is the question of Creativity, and where it comes from. From inside the individual mind, or from something outside? And if from outside, from where? I freely confess that I don’t know.

    More broadly than the question of whether or not there’s a god, I think of religion as the individual’s personal relationship with Nature. To me, this can only be a matter of individual taste.

    Now, I have no problem at all with personal religion. Nor, even, with those who wish to worship with like-minded others. However, when religion becomes institutionalized – when it acquires doctrines and dogmas, hierarchies and schisms, heresies and Inquisitions – then in my view it becomes a huge negative to human beings, not a positive.

    So for me, the only sane attitude to religion is tolerance. Therefore I don’t levy any requirement, either positive or negative. I sum up this attitude in my “First Precept of Religion,” which states: If you let me have my religion (or lack of it), I’ll let you have yours.

  • Ultimately, the existence of God is not something that can be proved or disproved by argument. It is an observable in the world, like the existence of my right foot. You (or indeed I) can only decide whether it exists by experiencing its existence (by seeing it, or being kicked by it, or something). God is a more dramatic concept but just the same as my right foot; he (or she or it) either exists or does not exist, and you can only verify this by experiencing/observing God or not.

    Personally I have never experienced God, or any god. Neither do I know of anyone who can reliably report such an experience. I therefore put God in the same category of limitless numbers of other potential things which one can imagine existing; at best unknown. When I factor in firstly that God is implausible and secondly that we know that he is just one of numerous magical ideas of ancient peoples who knew nothing of how the Universe actually works, I think it rather presumptious at best to act as if He does exist.

    I’d also like to think that if some spectacularly powerful being had created the Universe, he would be a bit more impressive than the bad tempered, interfering, vain, small minded busybody of the Bible.

  • Dr. Gabb’s views come across as alarmingly solipsistic. Though I suspect he is gently pulling our legs.

    I don’t share Ian B’s more existential (but still quite solipsistic) approach because, in my view, a judgement as to whether something exists shouldn’t just depend on personal experience. I think there is an objective, concrete reality outside our own experiences and perceptions. Our perceptions just bring reality into our experience. The Universe would not make sense otherwise. For instance, when we discover a distant star or planet, we don’t hear a scientist declare: “That planet didn’t exist until we discovered it.” That would nonsense and the relevant scientist would probably be carted off to the funny farm. The planet existed separately from our perception of it.

    However, for the sake of argument, let’s just apply Ian B’s ‘existentially solipsistic’ principle of understanding reality to the matter of the existence or otherwise of God (or a god): i.e. [quote]”…you can only verify this by experiencing/observing God or not.”[unquote]

    I would contend that this throws up all sorts of problems for us. If, let’s say, a Christian tells us – as they often do – that they have ‘experienced’ God or they ‘know’ Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour, the Light, the Way, then how can we invalidate this personal experience? Doesn’t this mean in fact that God and Jesus do exist, at least in some sense, because they are ‘experienced’?

    It’s rather like ghosts. I don’t think ghosts exist and I can note as follows:

    (i). I don’t have to say that I need to have experienced ghosts before I can ‘believe in’ them or not, because it’s not necessary for me to have experienced something to believe in it or not believe in it;

    (ii). whether I believe in the existence or otherwise of something doesn’t depend on me seeing it. I can dismiss the possibility of ghosts because the theories, such as they are, that assert their existence, are wildly out of sync with my own empirical experience and that of countless others (how many people do you know who can submit a serious claim to have seen a ghost?), because science (as it currently stands) doesn’t generally support the existence of ghosts (nor do the overwhelming majority of scientists), and because plain, simple common-sense tells me that ghosts can’t exist: I can see that once you are dead, you are dead;

    (iii). obviously this can only be a provisional conclusion in the strict sense because I must allow for the possibility, however remote it may be, that I could be wrong or that at some point in the future general knowledge about these things has to be revised, or both. If I do experience a ghost, then assuming I can rely on my own experience of such, I would have to revise my views about what is possible, but that does not mean I must believe in ghosts now or accept that they can exist.

    • Solipsism is entirely reasonable as a start to any philosophical thinking. All I immediately know is my own mind in the present. Everything else is a matter of impressions and memories. I have no reasonable doubt that the external world exists and is perceived much as it really is. But a working assumption, based on long and unvaried experience, is far less certain than my own existence. The Randians can huff and puff and manufacture words and distinctions till they’re blue in the face. But no chanting of “A is A” can prove there is anything at all behind those impressions.

    • My point was that there is no logical argument which can either prove or disprove God, just as nothing can logically prove or disprove the existence of my right foot. The only way to know would be to see if it is actually there. I think ghosts highly unlikely to exist, but I cannot disprove them. Neither can I prove them. Even if I experience one (I have one personal inexplicable other than ghost experience btw) I cannot be sure that I am not mistaken.

      And this really is the reason any objectivist (let alone Objectivist) attempt fails. Our knowledge of reality is just a working hypothesis. I am more confident in some of it than other parts. But it never reaches absolute certainty. This was Hume’s point. Many people misunderstand him as denying that reality exists. He didn’t (unlike Berkeley). What Hume did was say there is never absolute certainty, and that is a state which cannot be achieved.

      The best we can do as thinking beings is to have a good working hypothesis, and most of the time that serves us adequately. God isn’t part of my working hypothesis regarding the nature of the Universe. But I might be wrong.

      • In total agreement

    • Following on from what I say above, and continuing the same theme:

      God as a supernatural being could exist outside our realm of perception, and this in and of itself does not disprove God’s existence. But we can make educated guesses and speculate.

      God’s existence would not be consistent with what we generally understand about the world and how it works, whereas the existence of planets we don’t know about is consistent with our understanding of things. Although we probably still can’t say for sure what extra-solar planets exist in the Universe, their existence can be predicted and reasonably speculated about. These unknown and undiscovered phenomena don’t belong in the same category as the preternatural. They exist prior to our knowledge of them and will continue to exist even as they remain undiscovered, and even if their discovery is forgotten.

      God is arguably the opposite: unless we are prepared to say he exists, he doesn’t exist. Thus he belongs in the realm of faith (hope) and doubt, with each – faith and doubt – dependent on the other. To the Christian mind, the impossibility of God’s existence is proof of God’s existence, faith and doubt being co-dependent and positively related.

      Scientists and empiricists seek truth through reasoning, inquiry, experimentation and testing, and observation. Their conclusions are provisional in that there is always the possibility of revision on new discoveries being made or new principles coming to light. This is an implicit acknowledgement of an objective reality. Doubt is welcome, but the presence of doubt is not a scientific basis for an affirmation of the existence of something. If a scientist began to doubt the main thesis on anthropomorphic global warming, he wouldn’t then get on his knees and start praying in the hope that his doubt might be assuaged; he wouldn’t turn up at confession and admit that his doubts make him a sinner. Instead, his scientific mind would prompt him to ask whether his doubts should cause him to reject the thesis altogether or perhaps modify it and come up with something better. He might formulate a hypothesis which, if supportable, would erode or falsify existing theories. He might then test this hypothesis, and based on the results, propose a revision of the accepted theories.

      To Christians, in contrast, truth is not ‘testable’ or falsifiable but is transcendent of objective reality and ultimately only discoverable through eternal judgement after death or at the Apocalypse (Greek for ‘revealing’), when God’s true nature will be ‘revealed’ to all. Those who do not believe in this are said to have doubt and are asked to pray more or read their Bible. God’s existence, the feasibility of eternal judgement and the Apocalypse, are not testable assertions, but exist in the minds of those who have faith. Doubt redoubles the resolve of the faithful, who find comfort in their hope that God exists. The wishing that something is true or would be true therefore becomes truth, even if nothing in objective reality supports it other than the reported ‘experiences’ of other religious believers. This extreme philosophical solipsism that seems to underpin religions is possibly a pointed legacy of efforts in early human societies to establish social order by denying the existence of a material realm and promoting submission of the mind to a god.

      I’m not suggesting that we should close-off our minds to other modes of thinking and ways of seeing, but that in itself is (or ought to be) consistent with how we understand the world, in which we are always open to discovery of new things. Those new things, whether a god or a ghost or a new planet, if discovered, then become part of our knowledge.

      • Ah, but what you are trying to do is judge one hypothesis that explains reality from within the terms of a rival hypothesis. Both hypotheses strike me as equally good, but neither can be proved. Therefore neither can be used to disprove the other.

  • In response to Ian B & Dr. Gabb:

    I’m still not convinced by either of your positions, and I think you are both straining the point about the malleability of reality. I accept that we are reliant on our sense perceptions in experiencing and understanding reality, but I don’t see how that can lead to a dismissal of an objective reality. A blind or deaf person lives in an objective reality which continues independently of their missing sense experiences. The world simply would not make sense unless we accept the existence of a reality that is independent of our own perceptions and experiences. The Americas as a physical geographic ‘thing’ existed regardless of the Romans, who (so it is thought) never bothered to venture across the Atlantic. Clearly, the Americas existed independently of Roman sense experiences. Our understanding of reality today depends on this. Or where do people fly to? Did the place they fly to only come into existence when it was (re-)discovered in the 15th. century? I would not be able to leave the house if I held to the view that the world only exists inside my head (solipsism) or as a sort of unfolding kinematoscope of present experiences (ultra-existentialism).

    When reading some of the above comments, I thought of the old philosophical poser I have seen mentioned elsewhere of the tree in the rain forest and the question of whether it makes a sound when falling if there is nobody around to hear it fall. But the tree exists, does it not? And the tree falls, does it not? Nobody suggests that the tree doesn’t exist and the tree doesn’t fall simply because we are not there to see it. Obviously if we are not there to see it, we can’t see it, and if we are not there to hear it, we can’t hear it, and thus we can’t assert with certainty that a particular tree exists, but the premise that the ‘sound’ doesn’t exist because we’re not sufficiently proximate to sense it is flawed since it involves a misdirection. We know that our senses depend on either proximity to the phenomenon or some other man-made device. The things that cause vibrations in matter that we recognise as sound still exist regardless of whether we happen to be near enough to pick up on these vibrations so that our brains can convert them into electrical signals that are then interpreted as ‘sound’.

    In the matter of the existence or otherwise of supernatural gods, I suppose a lot of this depends on what we regard as ‘proved’ or ‘disproved’, and we may be at risk of relegating this exchange into a dispute over semantics. I regard the existence of any god as disproved until evidence to the contrary arises, so I regard myself as ‘certain’, but at the same time I accept the provisionality of knowledge.

    I say ‘disproved’ because, like Ian B, I regard the thesis statements at the beginning of the Book of Genesis as quite implausible – and also for a number of other reasons that provide me with a sense of certainty on the question, but that I won’t exhaust here, including that I also look on their implications as in conflict with my own general experience and what is considered common-sense.

    However, my dismissal of God’s existence does not depend on my own experience. If somebody could convincingly provide an account of God’s existence, either on the basis of theirs and others’ experience, or as a conjecture grounded in physical laws, then my sense of certainty in the matter might begin to erode. That I might not have seen or experienced God myself would not necessarily deter me from looking into the explanations offered, if they were plausible. Thus, my understanding of reality is, yes, a working hypothesis, as it must be for everybody, but reality itself is not a hypothesis. Reality exists. Existence exists. I know I am typing into a computer right now on a desk in a room in the house. That’s not a hypothesis. The more remote aspects of reality can be hypothesised, but the concrete reality that is around us, together with the general knowledge we have available to us, provides us with the basis for assessing the quality of any hypothesis put forward. If somebody told me: ‘”Jesus is the Light and the Way, I have seen Him and experienced His Love, submit to the Lord now”, I would dismiss such a person as a crank. I would not entertain their assertions, based on their experiences, that Jesus existed as anything other than a mere mortal, since I know that their claimed experiences do not cohere with what is understood about wider reality. The reason a great many powerful and influential people make a show of taking this Middle Eastern mumbo-jumbo seriously is because it serves a sociological purpose to do so – as I explained above, religion is a method of social order, and the mindset of religious people is, I believe, a legacy of our ancient past when primitive societies were controlled and herded by greater intellects that needed the ordinary populace to obey authority. This was done by alienating people from their material needs.

    • You’re showing your Marxism here. Neither I nor Ian B deny the existence of a real universe that continues to exist when we are not looking at it. We simply deny that its existence is open to anything more than proof beyond reasonable doubt.

  • Tom Rogers-

    I am not denying the existence of an objective external reality, in the sense that there is an “out there” out there, and it has only one nature. The point is that we all experience and interpret it differently, what is “in here” (taps head) is not the same as what is out there. It is a working model of what is out there. This is not an idealist position like Berkeley (denial of an external reality). Simply a recognition that everyone has a subjective view of it.

  • Ian B, why is experience “‘in here’ taps head”?

    Why is experience not in your wrist or in your big toe?

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