Posts Tagged Held to be Self-Evident

Chasing the Supernatural, Part II

Wherein I point out a major omission in part I.

This, conveniently, is the part of the process that I as a person have difficulty taking full advantage of (clarification follows) and as such the follow-up will likely be much shorter than the opener.  The problem with part one is that it addresses none of the deeper significance behind the entire idea of God, the actual relationship aspect.  Part one focused entirely on the practical/rational side of the God argument–necessary, maybe, but by no means the entire picture.

If you’ve read about Christianity at all outside of the news, you may come across the idea that at its core it is not about moralism or wreaking human judgment upon others or building an armada of Don’ts.   The problem is that many Christians (yes, capital C–being a Christian doesn’t make you immune to sin anymore than being a firefighter makes you flame retardant), ‘christians’, and others either act as if it all were so or don’t care enough to find out otherwise.  My honest belief is that because of both internal (whatever you would happen to consider ‘internal’) and external influences, many people do not view Christianity favorably.  They simply don’t know what real followers of Christ are supposed to look like because they’ve been unable to see one modeled properly amidst the thunderous wave of hypocrisy or disparagement.

So on a day these folks hear that Christianity is supposedly about God’s love, we wonder why it doesn’t get a favorable response.

It’s about recognizing who He is and who you are and building from there, stopping only when you arrive at the cross.

Mind you, corrupting the message isn’t the only issue, either.  There’s always the chance that we forget entirely where the focus lies–on love between Creator and created.  I offer this as a counterbalance to my apologetics-heavy part I.

Lewis puts it well in The Great Divorce:

There have been men before … who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist. There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.”

I will get one thing straight.  I’m not attempting to decide whether or not building a logical case for God and then deciding Well I guess I should just take this Jesus guy’s word for it and do what He says because I have nothing to lose constitutes saving faith.  My point is that walking up to the last woman (or man) on earth and saying “Honey, let’s save the species” does not a complete relationship make.  Sure you’ve addressed the practical reasons for getting together, but your words speak nothing of love itself.

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Chasing the Supernatural

My mind started wandering in the shower a few mornings ago, the wandering being a product of weeks/months/years of questions and doubt and hope and that kind of stuff.  This is an attempt to organize it, forgive me.

Faith (as in believing something that I can’t know for certain) has–on the surface–always been a difficult concept for me.  I don’t like its lack of concrete answers.  I like to look at something and know that it’s either completely explained, or somewhat so.  It’s nice to know that if I throw mashed potatoes at something, they’ll either stick or they won’t.

Knowing this, it’d be great if God would rain down public supernatural events on a regular basis.  Unfortunately–from my perspective and to my knowledge–that isn’t how He operates, and we’re forced to make decisions based on what we’ve been given.

Some people don’t ever need to question beyond what they can see.  What’s there is enough.  (I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever met one of those people.)

I can’t completely do that.  There are still whys, and barring some kind of public (or private) supernatural event, I suspect my own personal whys will always remain.  And I often wonder why–on a personal level–life must be this way.  A seeming lack of indisputable supernatural activity can be irritating on multiple levels, not the least of which is that faith is a bear to build an argument around, and I do like to argue.

As a result I’m compelled to make observations.

Observation: Life exists.  (Unless you’re under the impression that all of existence is one incredibly convincing lie, in which case there is really no point in discussing anything with you because if life is one great prevarication anyway you might as well spend it doing something else.)

Assuming you haven’t packed up your crazy and left, we’ll make a–

Conclusion: Something brought said life about.

By simple interpretation of those two statements, we can then conclude that it came about by either a natural or supernatural means, both being–at the very lowest level–mutually exclusive.  It’s not as if natural processes produced God, and then suddenly–along with everything ever–became subject to Him, and it’s not like God made the Big Bang (if you’re of the persuasion that it goes back that far) and then died, letting everything go on ticking for an indeterminate length of time.  I’m certain you could distill both of those thoughts into natural or supernatural anyway.  They’d just be the illegitimate spawn of people with too much time on their hands.

The question then is: What is natural?

Through observation and interpretation we’ve discovered rules. Two laws of thermodynamics in particular, that (simplified) tell us that A: Things do not spring out of nothing, and B: Things that exist move from order to disorder.  We know our universe either had some sort of beginning, which violated the rules as we know them, (ex nihilo does that) or it jumped out of what had previously (during an eternity of yesterdays?) been a stable point containing the ingredients for everything ever.  Which also came from something, which came from something…which came from nothing?

None of that is technically relevant, because if you accept the current narrative and go back far enough, whether through the big bang itself, or quantum fluctuations, or interaction with other universes or dimensions or branes, when you finally cannot look any further, (farther? Probably not–I think at some point actual distance became moot) how do you naturally explain whatever it is you find?

Do you choose not to explain it, dismiss explanations altogether, and steadily push on, envisioning reality as a never-ending matryoshka with you at the center?

Follow the tracks of a million ‘somethings that begat somethings’ backward through existence and you will have to find either a something that came from nothing, or a something with no natural explanation.

And here’s why.

Scientific practice relies on observation and interpretation.  Reasonable, right?  Here’s a thing, it looks like this because x.  Here’s another thing, it is what it is because of x as well.  Do that a hundred or a thousand times and x becomes your go-to explanation.  Galaxies are observed flying apart from each other?  Extrapolate backward and you decide that maybe they were close together at some point.  Really close together.  If that’s as far as you look, that’s all you’ll see.

Now hold that thought.

Look at a rosebush.  Only a rosebush.  Forget the plants it grows among, forget the bees, forget the ground, forget the sun and rain and the world around it.  Lacking any external cues to its existence, tell me what a rosebush does, and why.  Why does it have flowers?  Obviously, having detached it from its context, you must explain its purpose without referring back to anything external during your explanation.

Tough?  Now do it from inside the bush.

Our universe–at whatever scale of reality that eventually turns out to be–is that rosebush.  From inside it we will never be able to obtain a complete knowledge of what exactly it is.  We won’t even be capable of defining its limits because we won’t be able to see through them to understand if that’s truly what they are.  Does it (the universe, not the rosebush) end at the edge of the bubble, beyond quasars and the CMB?  Are there more ‘universes’ out there than just the one we can see now?  How do other dimensions factor in?

We can push the boundaries of answerability, but we cannot break them.  We’re doomed to remain inside the system, and without external context completely interpreting even a simple plant becomes impossible.  There’s no way to truly tell where it came from, there is only speculation based on the rules within the bush itself; never mind that there might be other forces at work beyond its borders.  Internal speculation doesn’t even begin to explain the external reality.  There are things beyond that rosebush that would fracture the minds of anyone inside.

Knowing this, and assuming research continues indefinitely, at some point the question “What else is out there?” is going to become completely academic because there will be nowhere else to look.  We will run up against the wall of what we can see and touch, and the question of what lies beyond the wall will return to the realm of philosophers rather than scientists.

God or not, the construct of reality will eventually require explanations outside of natural laws, explanations without empirical evidence, explanations based on faith in orphaned numbers and extensions of equations, hypothetical answers to problems that no one can see in a land without a field on which to test them.

In essence, science today is chasing the supernatural while denying the same.

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Thus Always to Theories.

Good article.  Stumbled into it earlier this evening.

It meshes well with some of my personal ideas, and yet…

I’ve mentioned here before my opinions on Creationism vs. the BBT/Macroevolution idea.  If you’re going to deny God as outlandish or an impossible violation of natural order, where does that leave the big bang?  The exact same boat.  You’re violating at least one (unbreakable, mind you) law of thermodynamics to create a system based the infallibility of those same laws.

A giant explosion from nothing?  Phweeeeeeee….  That’s the sound of Conservation of Matter and/or Energy jumping out of a 10-story building and splattering into the pavement of cold, hard laboratory-reproducible facts, or so it’d seem.  Matter existing forever, then exploding?  There goes poor entropy too.  Nobody misses him.  That guy was always making a mess out of perfectly orderly things.

This is the kind of argument I like.  Make a choice based on concrete information.  If you’re forced to choose between two things and they both seemingly exhibit the same incongruities, why wouldn’t you pick the one that both offers hope and doesn’t suffer from internal contradictions?

Faith is a different animal.   I don’t have a problem with having faith; it’s absolutely necessary.  I just wish that it weren’t such a bear to build an argument around.

But that’s the point.  It’s faith.  And there’s the problem.  Biblical idea points toward loving God for who He is and what He did, not because you looked at a line of the usual suspects and decided that Christianity seemed like the most reasonable choice.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think motives would affect salvation; but maintaining a growing relationship with God, if you’re given the time, implies more than unfeeling logic.  That’d be like blind dating somebody based on their DNA, only skipping the dating part and just getting married.  Maybe the relationship will work out, you’ll love each other, and your kids will invent a Segway that travels at mach 6, or solve cancer using differential equations.  Or maybe you’ll hate each other, but at least the urchins will be able to bench press a car.

Nobody does stuff like that except megalomaniacs in Bond films.

Though maybe seeing God as the reasonable choice is a bridge to something better.

And if it seems like I’m dancing around making many straight statements in that last big paragraph, it’s because I am.  I don’t presume to know enough to be a teacher in that area by a long shot, and I don’t want stricter judgment (outsider’s opinions of the same material, sure).  Nobody significant cares if you mishandle Punctuated Equilibrium or the Boltzmann constant.  Doctrinal material… just maybe.

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