If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning — just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. Similarly, the fact that eyes exist suggests that light must exist. And the the fact that we have spiritual longings … the fact that we even have a meaningful category of thought and speech called spirituality … Suggests that there is some corresponding reality out there which we have the capacity to “sense”. That capacity would be called faith, and that reality, God.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1943, p. 46)
The skeptic doubts one set of propositions because he believes another. None of us live with absolute, unassailable certainly about anything; we all live by faith. What someone thinks or feels absolutely certain of is really relative certainty. It’s certainty based on faith that they are right. The fact that they are certain is proof that they possess great faith. Likewise, one who doubts yet believes also demonstrates that some degree of faith is inescapable and runs through all that we claim to know.
Albert Einstein once said that there is no knowing without believing.
As far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
The supreme task of the physicist is the search for those highly universal laws from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path leading to these laws. They are only to be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love.
The mechanics of discovery are neither logical nor intellectual. It’s a sudden illumination, almost a rapture. Later, to be sure, intelligence and analysis and experiment confirm (or invalidate) the intuition. But initially there is a great leap of the imagination.
— Albert Einstein
I continue to be a little confused by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow’s book, The Grand Design.
Following from their work in this book Stephen Hawking uses their theories to explain why it’s possible for the universe to have begun spontaneously, created from nothing. From this basis Hawking postulates that being able to use the laws of physics and nature to describe how the universe could have sprung into being is sufficient to explain that it could not have been created by God.
I’ve long had a problem with this idea because it seemed to ignore the questions of what came before and how this could be. Yet I figure out a way to explain why it wasn’t sitting right. I understood what my issues with the theory were, but I couldn’t find appropriate language to explain it.
I recently read a response by Gerald Schroeder which I feel goes a long way toward explaining why I felt something was seriously wrong with Dr. Hawking’s conclusions. The paradox is that Mr. Hawking has demonstrated very eloquently that the laws of nature must have existed prior to the big bang and the creation of the physical universe. In my view, there is no difference between “laws of nature” and God. The “laws of nature” are God and God is the laws of nature. Thus, Mr. Hawking has provide us with a theory supporting the existence of God (nature) by showing us how nature (God) could have caused the physical universe to spontaneously spring into being.
In “The Big Bang Creation: God or the Laws of Nature” Schroeder explains it best…
The Grand Design breaks the news, bitter to some, that … to create a universe from absolute nothing God is not necessary. All that is needed are the laws of nature.
there can have been a big bang creation without the help of God, provided the laws of nature pre-date the universe. Our concept of time begins with the creation of the universe. Therefore if the laws of nature created the universe, these laws must have existed prior to time; that is the laws of nature would be outside of time. What we have then is totally non-physical laws, outside of time, creating a universe. Now that description might sound somewhat familiar. Very much like the biblical concept of God: not physical, outside of time, able to create a universe.
My opinion is simply stated. Being physical, we know and relate everything to our physical world. God is alien to us in this regard. Being spiritual and not physical we cannot and should not try to fit the experiential possibilities of God into the constraints of our physical world. Understanding this, it follows that if we can track the evolution of our physical world back in time to a singular point where it all began, and we base our understanding of this beginning on the laws of nature and physics that we observe to govern our physical world, that we must conclude that something occurred to bring about the laws of nature and physics and were necessary to bring about the physical world. If the laws of nature and physics are not physical in and of themselves, perhaps we can think of them as spiritual. If the laws of nature and physics are spiritual then perhaps we can think of them as God.
What do you think?
In his book, We Make The Road By Walking, Brian McLaren writes…
An image is a small imitation or echo, like a reflection in a mirror. So if we bear the image of God, then like God, we experience life through relationships. Like God, we experience love through our complementary differences. Like God, we notice and enjoy and name things — starting with the animals, our companions on the Earth. Like God, we are caretakers of the garden of the Earth. And like God, we are “naked and not ashamed”, meaning we can be who we are without fear.
I would suggest that we also echo God in that like God, the essence of our “selves” is spirit not flesh. We exist in flesh due to God’s miracle of creation. But we also exist in spirit. Like God, there is a part of us that is not bound by the constraints of the physical world, and instead is ordered by the bounds of a different dimension — a different creation, also of God.
The Data Says So … Doesn’t it?
The paradox of alternate realities
Be careful out there! It’s been a very long time since I slogged through my social statistics classes as an undergraduate Sociology major. But, one thing I learned that stuck with me is a simple truth. If you’re good with the math you can make the data say whatever you want it to.
Case in point…
The ongoing, regular and constant conversations about disparity in gender and race amongst the ranks of elite classical musicians in American orchestras. When you look at the data you see a world dominated by white Anglo Saxon men. Sure, you can debate and argue nuances involving the rise in the numbers of Asian men and women, or whether or not you should make distinctions between western and eastern European origins. But why bother?
The fact is – most American orchestras have been practicing blind auditions for decades. This means that auditions are held behind a curtain. The path to the performance spot on the stage is carpeted to avoid the sound of heals on wood. The applicant is not allowed to speak to avoid exposing their gender through the sound of their voice. The applicants audition is judged on artistic merit only.
Yet, the numbers aren’t wrong. Facts are facts. So, the pundits go on and on about the glass ceilings that cause the social inequity that is enumerated by the data. But, they make a very common mistake. They confuse correlation with causation. The data certainly correlates. But that doesn’t mean that one thing causes another.
For example – the number of African American women is disproportionately low compared to the general population, and the magnitude of the difference is statistically significant. There is a data correlation. Many may assume that there is a social barrier that exists that must be influencing the balance which results in the data we see. But, it’s equally possible that the real culprit is not a negative limiting factor, where one group is actively excluding another. It’s possible that the root cause is sociological and a result of a simple fact. The underrepresented group has less desire to be counted among the group being measured. They exclude themselves because they have no interest in being included.
Of course, we can debate why this is so, and I’m sure someone will propose that the reason they don’t aspire to be among elite classical musicians is because some other group in society oppressed them systemically which resulted in a shifting of cultural values that plays out as a lack of interest in the classics.
As you see, we can paint the picture any way we like using the existing data if we’re clever and committed to proving our position.
Outside the realm of data analysis and statistics we often see that this same phenomenon holds true. Reality is dependent on the perceptions of the observer. Multiple people can behold the same object or event yet ascribe completely different meaning to it. Much like elusive quantum particles that can only be detected when observed – the act of observing disturbs and influences the particle – reality can be disturbed by observation.
Multiple possibilities. Multiple observers. Multiple realities. All in conflict with one another, yet all correct.