== Love God == Delight in Light ==

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Two Options

Ok - let's summarise what I have talked about in the posts up to now on this topic of "Why I believe in God":
  • A permissible hypothesis - It seems to me that there is no logical reason for discounting "God" as at least a potential answer to the question of why things are the way they are.
  • Hello World - Life requires information. Generating the information for even the most basic of living things by random processes would be likely to take incomprehensibly vast amounts of time (far more than are allowed for by even the most extreme estimates for the age of the universe).
  • Special Conditions - Formation of life also requires very specialised conditions - specialised chemical and environmental conditions, specialised planetary conditions and finely balanced laws of physics and chemistry. Again, the chances of all these conditions being available simply by chance are incredibly small.
  • Random Writing - Having formed the first living "thing" we would then need to allow for that thing to improve over time by a process of random changes followed by natural selection. Once again the odds are stacked phenomenally heavily against this being successful.
  • Starting from Scratch - Even if we put aside the issue of random probability, changing things gradually over time (even when coordinated by an intelligent human) does not normally result in a highly efficient system. Rather it requires us to learn lessons from past attempts but then to build something new from scratch.
  • Changing in Parallel - Similarly, even when making incremental changes to existing systems to improve them, the norm is that we would need to change multiple parts of that system in parallel. Changes to one part without synchronised changes to another will, more often than not, make things worse rather than better.
  • A Lot of Positives - Even if positive (information adding) mutations happened every generation it is questionable if there would be enough time for all the necessary changes to take place in the time available.
  • And more... - And those are just some of points to consider - there are many more to add to these (a task that has been undertaken by others more qualified than I am to do so).
  • Yes But... - Of course there are also arguments that people make against the existence of God - however, none that I have encountered constitute genuine proof that God doesn't exist, and some are (in my view) not really actually relevant to the topic.

Now to me, this all amounts to, if not "proof" of the existence of God, at least enough evidence for me to consider it as a very strong possibility.

You may disagree - and that's fine - as I stated right at the beginning, what you believe is entirely up to you. In fact there are, clearly, millions of people (including some very clever and educated people) who do disagree.

But then there are also millions of people (including some very clever and educated people) who agree with me and also conclude that there is a God. (If you're interested, here's lists of are some of them, both present and past).

The problem, of course, is that the relevant evidence and the arguments about how that evidence should be interpreted are very complex and it wouldn't be possible for any one person to have a full understanding of all of them.

In some ways that's a bad thing - because it means that there is really no-one who is fully qualified to draw any kind of conclusion on this topic.

In other ways, though, it's a good thing - it means that we don't need to wait until we know everything there is to know about all these topics before we can reach some kind of conclusion of our own. We just need to make sure that we have looked at enough evidence and arguments from both sides to enable us to make a reasonable, rational decision about which of the two basic options we are going to choose.

Well - I say "need" - there's nothing forcing us to actually look at any of this - we could just select whichever is most convenient, go with that and hope for the best. However, that's not really an approach that I would recommend if the stakes are as high they may possibly be.

So - what are the two options?

They are these:
  • "God" exists. The universe is the way it is because God designed it like that, so probability and reliance on random changes are not necessary. God Himself (who would need to be far more complex than the most complex thing that He has designed) has always existed and so no random processes were necessary to initially being Him into existence. He exists outside of the universe (probably including outside of time itself) and so is not governed in any way by the laws we observe operating in this universe.
  • "God" does not exist. The universe is the way it is because of the effect of random changes and luck. The probabilities are such that it is unreasonable to believe that we just "struck lucky" the first time, so there must be multiple universes (so many of them that it makes the number of atoms in our current, observable universe look minute). These universes must exist in a way that means that the laws of physics, physical constants, etc. are different in each one of those universes. It is possible that large numbers of universes all exist at the same time, or that there is just one "universe" which is repeatedly being "reborn" in a new form (or some combination of those two). The fundamental matter and/or energy from which all these universes are made has existed for an infinite length of time (i.e. always - there never was a time when it didn't exist) but does not appear to have settled into any kind of steady state - rather it is continually changing into different states to enable different types of universes to form. Alternatively, at some time in the past there was nothing until a certain point when, without any external cause, something happened to that nothing to cause it to turn into "something".

These are the two options as I see them*.

To be honest both of them are rather mind-blowing. Both of them do funny things to my mind if I start to ponder them in any depth. And neither of them can actually be proven by actual external observation.

Mind-blowing as they are, however, I feel that I need to make a decision about which I believe. Of course you already know which I have selected if you have read this far, but bear with me for just one more post so I can talk you through my own reason for making that choice...

* Actually, there are other slight variations on the "God does not exist" side of the argument. For example, I once heard someone who argued that there is a feedback loop in time, so that the life and complexity that exists today in effect designed itself by feeding back through time and influencing the changes to happen in the correct way (although even this relies on the infinite existence of "something"). However, the two that I have presented generally appear to be considered as the two core options (except, of course, by those who don't believe that we should even allow for God as one of the options, in which case they are left with just the one option).
Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

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