origins

What if ?

What if Genesis told the story in a way that pre-scientific man could understand?  Could Adam and Eve be man and woman with sentience?  Can creation and evolution be used in the same sentence without angering believers and skeptics alike?  If God chose the Jews to be his people and to bless the world, would that anger a pagan gentile like me, or would I be glad to be included?

640px-Nicolas_Poussin_041  347px-Selection_Types_Chart

What if the flood was local?  Again told from the perspective of the ancients who did not know the heliocentric solar system or spherical earth.  Am I married to literal interpretation?  Am I allowed to consider the evidence of geology without accusing God of deceit or fantastic existence?  Will the skeptics hold me to a literal interpretation of all scripture when I don’t view it that way myself?  Can I ask these questions in church?  As a student?  As a teacher?

Jebulon own work CC640px-Quebrada_de_Cafayate,_Salta_(Argentina)

What if my childish question about Babel was right thirty years ago?  “Could a tower reach to heaven when heaven is not a physical realm?”  What if the story resonates with the neo-Babylonian ziggurat?  What if the story of language confusion is an allegory to explain pride and our disconnection?  Is God offended by me interpreting the story in nonliteral terms?  Are the skeptics handing me a revolver, compelling me to shoot, then insisting that I commit intellectual suicide every day I believe the Bible?  Are my questions welcome in the church?

640px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited640px-Ancient_ziggurat_at_Ali_Air_Base_Iraq_2005

What if the Nebuchadnezzer II that I read about in the book of Jeremiah actually existed in ancient Iraq?  How would I know if old books, written by fallible men, could not be trusted?  How do I know he destroyed Solomon’s temple?  Was I there?  When does story end and history begin?  If he existed, then why would I believe the writings of one who claimed to be a Hebrew prophet?  Why trust any writing at all?

Fotothek_df_ps_0002472_Innenräume_^_Ausstellungsgebäude Hanging_Gardens_of_Babylon Nebukadnessar_II

Too many questions.  Here’s my answer.  I love history although I can’t test it all scientifically.  I love science although I can’t verify it all historically.  I love people, even when I disagree with them.  The Bible can be true and not be subject to the straightjacket of literal interpretation.  How can I avoid going too far?  That is a question that all thoughtful believers must ask.  The scripture is one of my four cornerstones of faith because it tells a story that I can believe – – man created, fallen, and redeemed.  It has immense explanatory power.  I realize that ancient religions were asked to explain phenomena that we now understand as natural.  But for the deeper questions – – the very nature of nature and love and hate and who I am and how I should treat you –  I still look to God.  In the few decades I have left on this earth, that is unlikely to change.

Pascal

–1:16

*all photos and illustrations; wikimedia commons, under public domain or CC license, generosity of the contributors much appreciated

Romans 1:18-20

 

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  Romans 1:18-20 (ESV)

I consider Romans 1:16 to be the fulcrum of the first chapter of a letter that encapsulates Christian theology.  That said, I constantly reference the life of Christ in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) as I read Paul.  Paul’s words would mean much less to me if I didn’t have a chance to meet Jesus.  I suppose that all philosophy, civil or religious, is trying to both define and answer a question.  Is there a problem?  What is the problem?  Is there a solution?  What is the solution?  Although there must be people who say there is no problem, I have not yet met them.  My skeptical friends argue, sometimes rightly so, that the religious are the problem – – words say love, actions say bigotry.  My religious friends will decry the godless atheists (ironic, no?) and militant gay agendists.  Surely the kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven if only the abortionists and gays would go away.  No.

Is there a problem?  Yes.  What is the problem?  According to this passage of Romans, the problem is that God is angry at our actions that suppress the truth.  Is he angry at us or our actions?  Without semantic gymnastics, I am uncomfortable separating the two.  I remember angry mother, father, teacher or friend and find a difficult time in recognizing if it was me or my actions that received the wrath.  So – – the text says that I am not godly and not righteous – – and that by my unrighteousness I suppress the truth.

How do I suppress the truth?  Pause here to recognize the difficult assertion that there is capital “t” Truth.  Consider that in respect to what Russell has recently written about the solutions of science.

I suppress the truth by not acknowledging God.  How can I know anything about God?  There are two threads in Romans 1 and in fact in Christian thought – – words (scripture) and creation.  Russell and I know scripture well and we’ll open the discussion about reliability here.  Are these the words of God given to man?  Billions of people feel that way about very different words in different religions.  Let us only agree now that words have power for humans.  I would place spoken and written language in the top 10 accomplishments of evolution and technology.  Pascal – – why did you locate creation and evolution in the same paragraph?  Keep reading.

I believe (true or false belief I acknowledge) that God created this universe.  I also believe that truth with a capital “t” is truth.  Can I have it both ways – – specially pleading for God’s truth and science’s truth?  Not if I want to be consistent.  I desperately want to be consistent – – and I ask that from you.  So, in my philosophy, truth is truth.  If God is the author of truth, then science is not the Devil’s Workshop.

How old do you think the earth and universe is Pascal?  Is that not the shibboleth of the authentic Christian?  Do you find your answer here or here?  Who made it?  How?

For question 1, I answer with the truth of science and start with Google.  For question 2, I answer with philosophy and start with Genesis.  For question 3, I honestly go to both – – more on that later.  According to Romans 1, what can be known about God by pre-scientific man?  His invisible attributes:  eternal power and divine nature.  Thats not a lot to go on.  But somehow I get it.  I’ve seen stars away from city lights.  I’ve hiked a 14,000 foot peak.  I’ve felt so small at the edge of the ocean.  Either I am a happy accident, or I was a part of created plan.  How insecure of me to desire the latter.  How human of me to have desires at all.  Welcome to my wish fulfillment Dr. Freud.  More about my Daddy issues soon.

Pascal

–1:16

 

iMultiverse

The 5th grader noticed one of his apps had auto-updated on his quantum iPhone 72, so he opened it.

He watched as multiple fluctuations began to appear and disappear randomly in all shapes and sizes — sometimes bumping into each other and merging, sometimes exploding. He zoomed into one of the isolated bubbles and saw nothing but emptiness. In another bubble he saw white hot plasma. Time sped up and he watched it cool and dissipate into nothing as the bubble disappeared. Many more bubbles began to form. One expanded and collapsed again, causing part of the bubble to grow back out the other side. Some bubbles expanded so quickly some of the simulated energy cooled to form superheated matter, which eventually cooled further and began to clump together. He zoomed into one in time to see countless clumps collapse into beautiful stars which exploded into heavy elements that coalesced into planets. Eventually a chemical on some of the planets replicated, and in time, living things emerged. The small life forms evolved and some became intelligent and self-reflective like him. One of them wrote a speculative blog post about him and his app. He smiled, intrigued. His bus arrived at school. “Time to go”, someone said. With a small grin still on his face, he thought, “I’ll play it again on the ride home”. As he popped the bubble, trillions of virtual creatures ceased to exist. He closed iMultiverse and walked to class.

In another reality, fingers moved, and the bubble the fifth grader was in left the screen. The creature was excited to see that some of the bubbles on her app had developed life forms that could create virtual worlds of their own. However, the creature was heartbroken at the mindless loss of life. Did they not realize the simulation was real to those inside each bubble?! She suddenly froze, captured by a thought. Am I in a simulation, too?

Somewhere else, a smile formed.

Author’s comments…
What did the smile belonged to? Perhaps another simulator in an infinite regression of simulators? An uncreated creator with the special ability to create events in an existence that has no events? Nothingness itself? A random fluctuation in the first uncreated eternal nothing? An entity with a mind in an original uncreated eternal universe? Something else?

One point of this post is to illustrate that the cause for our universe could be eternal, or there could be no meaning to asking about a first cause if time/events once did not exist, or any number of things could exist outside it and causally before it. This story is one example of many potential a-priori realities in which a creator does not have to be all-knowing, all-good, etc. The events in any reality outside the universe we live in are not necessarily subject to our laws of causality (which, incidentally, may not even be laws in our universe). All we can have confidence in is the things that exist at scales we can measure in the known universe. We can know nothing of what might exist outside our universe.

Questions

  1. Is it justifiable to be absolutely certain about the cause of the Big Bang (assuming such a cause is even meaningful or required)?
  2. Are “an eternity of nothing” or “an all-knowing, all-loving God” the only options? Is that a false dichotomy?

We welcome your thoughts.

Gentleness and respect,
–Russell

P.S. Here is the app’s skeleton code for my fellow geeks


defaultStateOfRelationalExistence = nil; // set the initial state to nothing, 0, void

while appOpen { // keep running this loop until the app closes

   function universeGenerator() {
      return (totalFluctuation + totalOscillation + totalInstability + totalExcitation + totalOpposition + totalForce + totalCharge + totalPotential); // etc; basically the sum of all values for all relationships between all real and potential forces in the default state of the default environment
   }

   function checkStatusOfUniverse(previousStatusOfUniverse) {
      return previousStatusOfUniverse * defaultStateOfRelationalExistence;
   }

   function continueUniverse(relationalExistence) {
      while (relationalExistence) { // keep repeating the loop until the value of relationships exactly equals 0
         refreshScreen(relationalExistence); // displays interesting patterns to the iPhone screen
         relationalExistence = checkStatusOfUniverse(relationalExistence);
         continueUniverse(universeGenerator()); // if a new instability exists at any reference point, recursively call continueUniverse

         if (relationalExistencePoppedByUser) relationalExistence = nil; // if the user pops a bubble, remove all its relationships
      }
   }

   do {
      defaultStateOfRelationalExistence = universeGenerator();
   } while (!defaultStateOfRelationalExistence); // keep repeating the loop until at least one relationship emerges in the default environment

   continueUniverse(defaultStateOfRelationalExistence);
}