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Can you repeat the question?

Because I’m sort of masochist about these things, I was perusing the Biologos site earlier. Biologos is Francis Collins’, our new head of the NIH, organization. It’s aim is to reconcile science and religion, or at least provide its own perspective on how they interact. It’s pro-evolution, thankfully, but still mostly ridiculous.

For example, here they are talking about the atheist retort “If God created the universe, what created God?”

In many faiths, God’s origin is straightforward. Christian doctrine teaches that God is eternal and thus had no beginning.

Theologians have debated the relationship of God to time for centuries and no doubt will continue to do so. It is a question that we probably cannot answer. In one thoughtful response, God is the creator of time itself, and thus exists outside of time seeing all of history at once. Verses like those above are often used to support this view. On the other hand, this view is often critiqued by Biblical scholars including Clarke Pinnock, John Sanders and Gregory Boyd4, who point out that God is portrayed in scripture as acting in time….God certainly seems to be in time and responding to the unfolding course of events. But of course, given the difficulty our time-limited minds have in grasping this philosophical problem, there is no compelling reason that God could not be both outside of time and capable of acting within it.

This is the sort of silliness that our high-minded theological betters come up with fairly often. Well, it could happen, so what the hell, eh? It is indeed difficult to find compelling reasons against nonsense. How can you have a moral agent that exists outside of time? Thinking, making a decision, and then acting is so bound up in the concept of time that to separate them is to make it incomprehensible. Even if you were to someone how say that an agent could exist outside of time and not make decisions there, to place itself in time is a decision that would require time. Or maybe he’s in both realms simultaneously and this is like trying to prove that love is green.

The next section is pointless meandering (not that I’m criticizing, I’ve done plenty of that on this blog). After that comes this:

Suppose as a religious believer you ask the question, “What kind of a universe is most compatible with my belief in an eternal God?” In this case the response affirms but does not prove the reality of God. The universe that we experience appears to have had a beginning; it appears to be finely tuned for life; it appears to have a place for love and purpose. These appearances affirm as plausible your prior belief in God.

Now suppose you start from the atheist assumption. In this case the universe must not really be as it appears. It cannot have a real beginning, be tuned for life and love, and purpose can’t be anything other than illusory epiphenomena — the curious byproducts of chemistry and physics. The whole picture has a claustrophobic bleakness.

This is cute, but wrong. First, is the universe really the most compatible with belief in a God? It seems to me that for thousands of years human beings though they were a) the center of the universe and b) the direct creation of a higher power. What we currently know is that the Universe is vast and overwhelmingly hostile to human life and that we occupy a suitable niche in some insignificant corner of it. It seems like an awful waste of space, doesn’t it? Furthermore, we are the end result of several billion years of very gradual change. Directed or not, it’s what I’d expect of a god who created us in his image. Compatible? Sure. The fact that there are religious believers shows that. But it wouldn’t be my first pass at the question. Then again, God works in mysterious ways so who’s to say what’s the most compatible?

As for their account of the atheist view, what the fuck? I confess to not understanding the idea that we all have nothing to live for if there’s no purpose to the Universe. It’s like they expect a conversation like this to be the formative experience of our lives:

[Boy|Girl] 1: Wow, I really love that [girl|boy].
[Boy|Girl] 2: You know, your feeling for that [girl|boy] is a mechanism to encourage you to further our species.
[Boy|Girl] 1: You’re right! My feelings for that [girl|boy] have now vanished.

If you’re really stopped from enjoying life by the thought that you aren’t an invisible man’s special snowflake, I think you need to relax a little.

Furthermore, I think an atheist would point out that the assumption that all conceivable universes are possible is not a good one. The parameters of our universe are likely constrained, though how and why are open questions for scientists to answer.

Now, the conclusion!

But we can also state confidently that denials that God is creator are fraught with even more unresolvable difficulties and ultimately provide a far less satisfactory grounding for a worldview in which meaning and purpose play important roles.

Err, okay then. A whole article of muddled confusion and hand wringing about how atheism is bleak and we get a completely unsupported conclusion. Did you expect more?

Categories: Religion
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