Monday, 14 April 2008

No basic need for a creation

spiral galaxy
It seems that dumb documentary films are booming these days. There has been the ineffable Fitna in the Netherlands. And there is the ineffable Expelled in the United States. The latter is about the Intelligent Design (ID) debate that I have been following from distance for a while. It leaves me puzzled, somehow, and I ask myself where all those guys have left their brains.

What they describe as intelligent design, the creation of life without making use of an evolution, is misnamed in my view. It should be called dumb design. A really intelligent designer never would bother with detailed construction plans of sea urchins, worms, birds and primates. He would design quarks that have the potential to aggregate to atoms which have the potential to aggregate to molecules and then to compound structures that replicate and cluster to form more and more complex beings, simple living organisms, then higher ones, even primates and humans. An intelligent designer would make use of automatic evolution rather than bothering himself with dull detail construction work. Are the ID promoters really so disrespectful of their Greatest Being (which they refuse to call God in order to circumvent the secularity rule)? I am disappointed. Shame on them!

This said, I am ready to deal with the question whether a really intelligent concept of creation might be worth being discussed. Shouldn't we forget about the ridicule ideas of flat-earthers, six-day-creationists and ID adepts? Shouldn't we go back to the very basic questions?

The basic formula of creation

The cosmologists, those guys dealing with the very beginning of the Universe, have a bunch of theories and models that are disputed all the time. Some think that the Universe is pulsating in cycles of Big Bangs and Big Crunches. Some think that our Universe will end in a Big Rip. Some postulate dark matter and dark energy, others reject this notion. Some even don't exclude the possibility of multiverses.

Be it as it may, all these concepts can be summarized as "there is something rather than nothing". Every creationist, going back to the very basics, must come to this question: Why is something? Possible (but questionable) answer: From an initial state of nothingness, an agent (creator) acted, and as a result there has been something.

But nothingness cannot be

"Sorry, there is nothing left." Such a statement makes sense in everyday life, in situations where the focus is on certain things that are lacking. A poor guy may say that he has nothing, meaning that there is no money left, because he badly needs some money. These things are not the issue here.

But it may be useful to keep them in mind when looking at the concept of nothingness. No thing is the absence of some thing. This definition needs a thing that can be absent. Nothingness cannot be a stand-alone concept. It needs things.

When we try to figure out what absolute nothingness would mean, we inevitably come to statements such as "there is not even one single photon or electron or other elementary particle around in the whole Universe" or "there is no such thing as a Universe". It is not possible to make such a statement without using terms of things such as photons or electrons or the Universe.

In other words: The concept of nothingness is a paradox. It is just as impossible as a person being in New York and in Paris at the same time. Simply put: There is something, as we all can see, therefore nothingness is impossible. You may try to imagine nothingness, if you are not frightened by mental vertigo. But I guess you won't succeed.

No escape left

I am fully aware that our mind is not capable of grasping everything. There are things beyond human imagination, such as multi-dimensional spaces. This is not the point. Imagination is not needed here. Even things that cannot be imagined are still things. Therefore, even for a hypothetical supermind, nothingness must remain inconceivable. And without nothingness, there is no room left for a basic creation that made something out of nothing.

Photo credit: HubbleSite


atheist girl said...

awesome post. i really enjoyed reading your ideas on ID. i have always thought the same thing, but was unable to articulate it as well as you just did. your concept of nothingness is mindboggling. ill be back on your blog!

theologien said...

One fault that occurs in blogs such as yours is the tendency to group certain people into a category and attack them. Not all ID people are fundamentalist creationists, no more so than all atheists are cold blooded murderers like Hitler.

But, may I suggest that you check out Heidegger's concept of das Nichtige in his Being and Time, and then read Karl Barth's discussion on the concept in §50 of Church Dogmatics, vol. III.3, ‘Gott und das Nichtige’.

Just a suggestion.