Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Just another skeptical hop

frog hop
Children are born skeptics because they answer every reply with another question, mostly beginning with "but". As far as I can remember, I have been such a kid. I must have been three, four or five years old when I asked my dad where the world comes from. I recall his reply: "God has created it." I do not exactly recall my wording but I am quite sure it was something like: "But where does God come from?" To which he replied: "God has been existing for ever since."

All children are born atheists

I am sure such a dialogue has been taking place millions of times between children and parents. Not only is it basic philosophy, with no need for sophisticated books to grasp it. It is also a proof for the fact that we all are born atheists, with a basic urge to scientific query. No child on its own ever will come to the idea that there is a God. It is told so by the parents. And I strongly support that a child's naive view of the world should be taken as the default position.

What I have learnt as a child, then, was the fact that the greatest conceivable entity, God, has not been created. God must be greater than the Universe because he has created it. And, as my father told me more than once, I am quite sure, that God has not been created nor has he created himself but is uncreated and ever-existing. My childish brain has been unable to grasp such a concept, and my adult brain is still unable to do so, still bound to a world existing in time and space. Anything beyond time and space is inconceivable.

I did not question the concept of creation then, as a boy, three, four or five years of age. It seemed to make sense for the Universe because the Universe is so great and complicated. How could it have come to existence on its own? And for every boy, the default position is what their parents tell him. So why should I question it?

Going back to my childhood question

When I go back to this scene now, as an adult skeptic, I cannot help wondering about the double standard for the need of creation. My father, as a creationist (not of the six days kind), always has used the complexity of the Universe to convince me that it must have been created. Now I take his own argument and go just one skeptical hop further: How can an entity even more complex than the Universe have come to existence without a creation? I carefully would listen, then, how he tries to convince me of the assumption that God has not been created. Suppose he did a good job and I am convinced, then I simply would skeptically hop back once and ask him why the Universe, much less complex than God, must have needed a creation for coming into existence.

I only see one possible escape out of this dilemma: God must be much simpler than the Universe, his superiority being just a matter of power, not complexity. To this I would answer that this notion is very familiar to me: As an evolutionist, I am very used to the notion of complex things arising from simple things. Only that I would not call this a creation.

My conclusion: Take a claim of theists or creationists, use their own rules to make another skeptical hop in the same direction, and you may, surprisingly, come to conclusions that are fully compatible with a skeptical science-based worldview.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/wishymom/539663946/


rob horton said...

christian: are you familar with the cyclic view of the universe? it is possible that the universe has been here without beginning and is proceeding through cycles of bangs ever trillion years. i am open to the possibility that along with this eternal universe, an eternal divine fellowship also exists. it is likely a projection that humans claimed that their tribal-god or gods created the universe. i also think it is possibly tribal-propaganda that includes the message that all need to submit to a specific tribal-god.

what i am considering is that possibly all this "you need god" propaganda has been a barrier to a god-possibility that is not interested in being needed, but possibly merely invites into relationship.

these are just some thoughts in the back of my questioning. i have slid into skepticism, and i am not sure how far the slidding will go. i am not yet ready to say with richard dawkins: "there is almost certainly no god". but - he might be right.

thanks for your time. i am really enjoying your blog.


Christian said...

@ Rob: Yes, but there is some debate among cosmologists whether the Universe is proceeding towards a Big Rip or a Big Crunch giving rise to a new Big Bang cycle. Whatever, it would mean that time and space both would disappear and come to existence anew with every Big Bang. The singularity is both spaceless and timeless, therefore the notion of trillions of years over many cycles is pointless. As to your divine fellowship idea, I can understand it quite well, at least the motivational background: We humans have a certain tendency to humanize things around us. I do not think it is bad, on the contrary: dehumanizing other people is much much worse. I only warn against the shortcomings and delusions, supporting Dawkins in this respect.

rob horton said...

christian: thanks for your time. it just came to mind with regards to the child asking the question of where, etc.

question: where did the universe comme from? possible answer: it has possibly always existed going through a cycle of bangs and rips/crunchs. question: is there a god? possible answer: i don't know, that is a question you will have to decide if you want to explore.

i think a challenge i presently face is that it is going to be very difficult for me to "let go of god". i am exploring the possibility that this god i have been consumed with developing a relationship with for twenty years was a very complex imaginary friend. at times this relationship felt more real than my relationship with my wife. to authentically be skeptical about this and authentically explore this possibility is an adventure that i am not finding easy.