Given the universe, even a universe devoide of matter as such but provided with the actual laws of nature, everything that exists could, and I firmly believe did, develop from and in this without outside, divine, supernatural interference. But that universe, with its laws! For one thing there is nothing inevitable about the laws. It is a fact that masses attract each other, that gravity exists, but a universe in which masses repelled each other is also conceivable, and in it nothing could possibly be like what does exist, and so with all the laws of nature. They are necessary to the existence of things as they are, but from the abstract point of view there seems no real reason for them. The primoridal reality of the universe, the great Why of everything, is a great unified natural Law, of which hte various laws discovered by scientists are small interrelated parts. Science does not explain where that law came from, or why. A real explanation is (to me at least) inconceivable. It will never, never be explained. It is the one great and true goal in the search for knowledge, and it can never be reached.
Call that great Unknowable by any name you wish, call it X, or Yahweh, or God, or say that God created it. Applying the letters "g", "o", and "d" to it or what created it is no explanation and no consolation. It is a common failing, even more among scientists than among laymen, to think that naming a thing explains it, or that we know a thing because we can put a name to it. But to say that God created the universe means nothing whatever.
On the contrary, God was always invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from God; you don't need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don't believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time—life and death—stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand. Therefore, I don't think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out.
It’s hard to even consider the possibility that Santa isn’t real. Everyone seems to believe he is. As a kid, I heard his name in songs and stories and saw him in movies with very high production values. My mom and dad seemed to believe, batted down my doubts, told me he wanted me to be good and that he always knew if I wasn’t. And what wonderful gifts I received! Except when they were crappy, which I always figured was my fault somehow. All in all, despite the multiple incredible improbabilities involved in believing he was real, I believed—until the day I decided I cared enough about the truth to ask serious questions, at which point the whole façade fell to pieces. Fortunately, the good things I had credited him with continued coming, but now I knew they came from the people around me, whom I could now properly thank.
Now go back and read that paragraph again, changing the ninth word from Santa to God. Santa Claus, my secular friends, is the greatest gift a rational worldview ever had. Our culture has constructed a silly and temporary myth parallel to its silly and permanent one. They share a striking number of characteristics, yet the one is cast aside halfway through childhood. And a good thing, too: A middle-aged father looking mournfully up the chimbly along with his sobbing children on yet another giftless Christmas morning would be a sure candidate for a very soft room. This culturally pervasive myth is meant to be figured out, designed with an expiration date, after which consumption is universally frowned upon.
Science, regarded as the pursuit of truth, which can only be attained by patient and unprejudiced investigation, wherein nothing is too great to be attempted, nothing so minute as to be justly disregarded, must ever afford occupation of consummate interest and subject of elevated meditation. The contemplation of the works of creation elevates the mind to the admiration of whatever is great and noble ; accomplishing the object of all study,—which, in the elegant language of Sir James Mackintosh, ' is to inspire the love of truth, of wisdom, of beauty, especially of goodness, the highest beauty, and of that supreme and eternal Mind, which contains all truth and wisdom, all beauty and goodness. By the love or delightful contemplation and pursuit of these transcendent aims, for their own sake only, the mind of man is raised from low and perishable objects, and prepared for those high destinies which are appointed for all those who are capable of them.'
You could study your whole life, and not know. How long must a fish study to understand human motivation? It’s not a good analogy, but it’s the only safe one; we are like dumb animals to the Powers of the Transcend. Think of all the different things people do to animals—ingenious, sadistic, charitable, genocidal—each has a million elaborations in the Transcend. The Zones are a natural protection; without them, human-equivalent intelligence would probably not exist.” She waved at the misty star swarms. “The Beyond and below are like a deep of ocean, and we the creatures that swim in the abyss. We’re so far down that the beings on the surface—superior though they are—can’t effectively reach us. Oh, they fish, and they sometimes blight the upper levels with poisons we don’t even understand. But the abyss remains a relatively safe place.” She paused. There was more to the analogy. “And just as with an ocean, there is a constant drift of flotsam from the top. There are things that can only be made at the Top, that need close-to-sentient factories—but which can still work down here.
We conclude that there cannot be a strongly cohesive network of communicating, unifying intelligences through the whole universe if (1) such galactic civilizations evolve upward from individual planetary societies and if (2) the velocity of light is indeed a fixed limit on the speed of information transmission, as special relativity requires (i.e., if we ignore such possibilities as using black holes for fast transport: See Chapter 39). Such a universal intelligence is a kind of god that cannot exist.
In a way, St. Augustine and many other thoughtful theologians have come to rather the same conclusion – God must not live from moment to moment, but during all times simultaneously. This is, in a way, the same as saying that special relativity does not apply to Him. But supercivilization gods, perhaps the only ones that this kind of scientific speculation admits, are fundamentally limited. There may be such gods of galaxies, but not of the universe as a whole.
“Well, where is God,” said Mrs. Coulter, “if he’s alive? And why doesn’t he speak anymore? At the beginning of the world, God walked in the Garden and spoke with Adam and Eve. Then he began to withdraw, and he forbade Moses to look at his face. Later, in the time of Daniel, he was aged, he was the Ancient of Days. Where is he now? Is he still alive, at some inconceivable age, decrepit and demented, unable to think or act or speak and unable to die, a rotten hulk? And if that is his condition, wouldn’t it be the most merciful thing, the truest proof of our love for God, to seek him out and give him the gift of death?”
Balthamos said quietly, “The Authority, God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty, those were all names he gave himself. He was never the creator. He was an angel like ourselves, the first angel, true, the most powerful, but he was formed of Dust as we are, and Dust is only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself. Matter loves matter. It seeks to know more about itself, and Dust is formed. The first angels condensed out of Dust, and the Authority was the first of all. He told those who came after him that he had created them, but it was a lie. One of those who came later was wiser than he was, and she found out the truth, so he banished her. We serve her still. And the Authority still reigns in the Kingdom, and Metatron is his Regent.
I think it's impossible to be a scientist and to confront, even occassionally, the grandure, subtlety, elegance and magnificience of the universe without feeling a sense of reverence and awe, but that's very different from concluding that there's a god who issues punishments and rewards after your dead or that prayer works or that the bible is written by anybody but fallible human beings.
The word god is used to cover so many different points of view... First of all, you can be religious without believing in god. buhdists, certainly religious without without having any notion of god. Secondly, the word god, it's amazing how diverse the definitions are. Let me give two extremes. One is the sort of god that I gathered by osmosis during my childhood, which is an outsized white male with a long white beard who sits on a throne in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow. Now that kind of anthropocentric god there is, as far as I can tell, no compelling evidence for at all. None.
At the other extreme, there's the kind of god that Einstein and Spinoza talked about, not too different from the sum total of the laws of nature. Now there are laws of nature, and not only that they apply everywhere, to a quazar ten billion light years away as to the Eastern seaboard of the United States. And it's a very remarkable fact that the same laws do apply so generally. It could have been a different set laws applies in every county. So that kind of god of course exists. Who would deny that there are laws of nature.
So I claim you learn absolutely nothing about a someone's belief and if you ask them "Do you believe in God?" and they say yes or no. You have to specify which of the countless kinds of god you have in mind. I don't myself like to use the word in that context, because it doesn't illuminate at all. If I say I believe in god or if I say I don't believe in god, and I say no more, you've learned nothing about what my belief system is.
In his Spiritual Exercises, the Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis writes:
We have seen the highest circle of spiraling powers. We have named this circle God. We might have given it any other name we wished: Abyss, Mystery, Absolute Darkness, Absolute Light, Matter, Spirit, Ultimate Hope, Ultimate Despair, Silence. But we have named it God because only this name, for primordial reasons, can stir the heart profoundly. And this deeply felt emotion is indispensable if we are to touch, body with body, the dread essence beyond logic.
I have often quoted this passage in my various writings because it seems to capture profoundly the Deus absconditus of the mystics, the thing seen through a glass darkly, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans of the theologian Rudolph Otto, the numinous flame that burns in every atom, every flower, every grain of sand, every star-the hidden thing behind nature's veil. Can Dawkins be right and Kazantzakis wrong? Is "God" the wrong word for the "dread essence beyond logic"? Give Dawkins this: the word is indeed almost irretrievably burdened with personhood. It is our golden calf, our idol.