Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Gods and devils and something from nothing

August 8, 2020

No science and no philosophy or theology has still got its head around the something from nothing problem.

Something from nothing:

This is a very handy subterfuge often used in science and mathematics. When looking for something unknown, zero can always be converted into the sum of something and not-something. So it is always possible to imagine what the something is, evoke it from zero and claim that the not-something exists but cannot be found.

0 = X + ~X

Anything can be derived from nothing provided its negative counter-part can also be tolerated (in absentia if necessary).

We observe matter.

We haven’t a clue as to where this matter came from. So we devise the concept of matter and an equivalent amount of anti-matter at the origin of everything. But we cannot find this anti-matter in sufficient quantities to negate all the matter we observe. The global nothing is not preserved. That leads to the next subterfuge. It was all energy to begin with. Some of that energy converted itself into matter. That does not quite explain where that energy came from. Of course “nothing” might have decomposed into lumps of energy and of not-energy. The energy, it is then surmised, is that which is driving the expansion of the universe or the inflation of the universe or both. The lumps of not-energy are more elusive. Where that might be is not yet part of the next subterfuge.

nothing can be anything

This is a powerful technique but still a subterfuge. The existence of matter here in our universe can always be balanced by antimatter somewhere else such that a total nothing can be maintained. But matter and antimatter when they meet annihilate each other creating energy (according to E=mc2). Now that creates the puzzle of where energy came from. But that is easily solved by creating the concept of negative energy. Energy here can be balanced by negative energy there. Negative energy is a concept used in physics to explain the nature of certain fields, including the gravitational field and various quantum field effects.

Modern physics and cosmology are based on the fundamental premise that the Greater Universe is a Great Big Zero.

Of course some resolve the something from nothing problem by invoking a Creator. The same technique (or subterfuge) is also available to theology. But just as resolving the matter/antimatter created energy then leads to negative energy, the invoking of a Creator needs the conjuring of anti-Creators. A Creator here balanced by a Destroyer there. In Hinduism, for example, Brahma is the Creator balanced by Shiva the Destroyer. (Vishnu is the preserver and is in balance anyway). One problem for most religions and theologies is that they must create Devils subservient or inferior to their gods. Theologies collapse if devils are taken to be equally powerful, but negative, gods. Satan, for example, is a fallen angel where the angels were created by God. Thus Satan is more a balance for the Son of God rather than a balance for God. (I ignore the inconsistencies of all-powerful gods incapable of controlling subservient devils).

Heavens need Hells. Gods lead necessarily to Devils. And,

Gods + Devils = Zero.


Related:

Antimatter (CERN):

In 1928, British physicist Paul Dirac wrote down an equation that combined quantum theory and special relativity to describe the behaviour of an electron moving at a relativistic speed. The equation – which won Dirac the Nobel Prize in 1933 – posed a problem: just as the equation x2= 4 can have two possible solutions (x = 2 or x = −2), so Dirac’s equation could have two solutions, one for an electron with positive energy, and one for an electron with negative energy. But classical physics (and common sense) dictated that the energy of a particle must always be a positive number. Dirac interpreted the equation to mean that for every particle there exists a corresponding antiparticle, exactly matching the particle but with opposite charge. For example, for the electron there should be an “antielectron”, or “positron”, identical in every way but with a positive electric charge. The insight opened the possibility of entire galaxies and universes made of antimatter.But when matter and antimatter come into contact, they annihilate – disappearing in a flash of energy. The Big Bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. So why is there far more matter than antimatter in the universe?

Antimatter:

… In theory, a particle and its anti-particle (for example, a proton and an antiproton) have the same mass, but opposite electric charge and other differences in quantum numbers. For example, a proton has positive charge while an antiproton has negative charge.

A collision between any particle and its anti-particle partner leads to their mutual annihilation, giving rise to various proportions of intense photons (gamma rays), neutrinos, and sometimes less-massive particle-antiparticle pairs. The majority of the total energy of annihilation emerges in the form of ionizing radiation. If surrounding matter is present, the energy content of this radiation will be absorbed and converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or light. The amount of energy released is usually proportional to the total mass of the collided matter and antimatter, in accordance with the mass–energy equivalence equation, E=mc2.

Antimatter particles bind with each other to form antimatter, just as ordinary particles bind to form normal matter. For example, a positron (the antiparticle of the electron) and an antiproton (the antiparticle of the proton) can form an antihydrogen atom. The nuclei of antihelium have been artificially produced with difficulty, and these are the most complex anti-nuclei so far observed. Physical principles indicate that complex antimatter atomic nuclei are possible, as well as anti-atoms corresponding to the known chemical elements.

There is strong evidence that the observable universe is composed almost entirely of ordinary matter, as opposed to an equal mixture of matter and antimatter. This asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe is one of the great unsolved problems in physics. The process by which this inequality between matter and antimatter particles developed is called baryogenesis.

 


On the matter of matter (or how something came from nothing)


 

 

It’s a Long, Good, Silent, Mourning or Great Friday today.

April 19, 2019

Today is the Friday of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. “Good Friday” is probably derived from “God Friday” with “God” being used as an adjective meaning godly or pious. In the Nordic countries it is the Long Friday (Långfredagen). In German-speaking countries, it is Karfreitag (Mourning Friday) or Silent Friday (Stiller Freitag). In Greece and Eastern Europe it is Great Friday.

Fifty years ago, in all countries with a Christian tradition, all signs of merriment or happiness were forbidden by the church and by civil law. There were penalties for smiling and eating meat and dancing. If you were anybody of note you dressed in black. Most of the legal prohibitions for Easter and the period leading up to Easter have disappeared. Some still persist. In Ireland, the sale of alcoholic drinks is prohibited. In Germany, dancing and sports and gambling and the showing of “irreligious” movies is banned (Mary Poppins and Ghostbusters as examples). In the UK, horse racing is banned. In the Philippines, political campaigning is not allowed today.

In the Catholic tradition, all Fridays and the period of Lent are “penitential” days and penance in the form of abstinence and fasting is considered appropriate. Abstinence generally means refraining from any pleasurable activity. Abstinence from eating meat is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year, while abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The abstinence requirements apply to all Catholics over 14 years of age until death. Fasting is not required if you are under 18 or over 60. Traditionally milk and alcoholic drinks do not break the fast but milk shakes do.

Abstinence

The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

Fasting

The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem to be contrary to the spirit of doing penance.


 

The many, many gods of science

December 27, 2018

Many scientists (and all atheists) deny the gods of religions. Many also deny the existence of the unknowable but then illogically also deny that omniscience is unavoidable.

(Of course omniscience is one of the requirements to be a god).

But science does assume gods – in everything but name.

Many, many gods.


 

Creation Myths

December 7, 2018

Religions have no answer to the question and merely invoke God (or a god among a a pantheon of appropriate gods). Science has no answer either. No physicist or astrophysicist or cosmologist actually has the faintest idea about where energy and matter came from. The disingenuous claim that a smooth nothing suddenly and spontaneously produced clumps of matter and anti-matter (such that the total remained nothing) is just as far-fetched as any creation myth. Energy is handled similarly. The otherwise homogeneous universe is allowed to have clumps of “something” provided that they can be neutralised by equivalent amounts of “negative somethings”. The Big Bang is just a label for a Big Unknown.

Atheists, of course, don’t even try to answer the question. They are satisfied to say that the answer is unknown but they do know that it is not any kind of conception of God.

The other Big Question is : “How did life begin?”

Religions again have no answer and invoke God or gods. Science has no answer either and puts it down to random chemistry which became biochemistry and which, by accident, led to life.

Neither science nor religions nor philosophy have the faintest idea of what time is.

It’s all just Magic.


 

Boundaries of inexplicability

November 22, 2018

It is not difficult to imagine a time some 500,000 years ago when the first god was invented by one of our hominid ancestors. I have little doubt that the first god was the God of the Sun. It could be argued that a god of day and a god of night might have come first, but while the distinction between day and night was surely fundamental, the understanding that it is the Sun which causes night and day would have been evident even to most animals (as it is even now). The invention of a god requires an unanswerable question to be posed. Even a modicum of intelligence would find an explanation for day and night in the Sun. It is only when the question of why night would invariably follow day could be posed, that an inexplicable question arose. And the answer was found by invoking the Sun God.

Gods came long before religions. And every god that has ever been invented has been as an answer for an otherwise inexplicable question. Soon after the Sun God was invented came the inexplicable questions which created the need for a Moon God and a Rain God and a Wind God and a God of Thunder. Then came the gods of the seas and the rivers and the plains and the mountains and of earthquakes and of volcanoes. The gods were needed to explain all the easily and often observed, physical realities which surrounded our ancestors and controlled their survival but could not be predicted or explained. Gods were labels for magic. Somewhere along the way came the idea that the gods had discretion to act in a manner favourable or inimical to humans. And then came the giant leap of thought to the idea that human actions could induce the gods to intercede favourably. And so came the invention of prayer and of rain dances and of sacrifices and other ways of attracting first the attention, and then the intercession, of enormously powerful gods. It was then only a little step to praying for the intercession of the gods in matters inimical to enemies. Rationality plays no part, and can play no part, in invoking the irrational.

We need to distinguish between gods and religions. Whereas gods are a product of individual minds and are labels representing explanations for imponderable questions, religions are a societal construct for organising people. Irrational gods were invented by rational minds when faced with inexplicable questions. Religions merely organised these various irrational answers into structures of irrational belief for the “good of the society”. Religions provided lubrication for harnessing the actions of increasingly complex groupings of humans towards the pursuit of desired (sometimes perceived as common) goals. By definition, gods (and religions) operate – and can only operate – in the region of the inexplicable.

As knowledge has grown, some inexplicable questions have found rational explanations but new questions and new boundaries of inexplicability have always been found. In every field of thought humans came across – and continue to come across – boundaries of inexplicability. Knowledge has pushed back these boundaries, but every field of knowledge and thought is constrained within its boundaries of inexplicability. As the perimeter enclosing knowledge has expanded so has the length of the boundary of inexplicability and the volume of the unknown. In fact, every field of thought began  – and still begins – with an initial boundary of inexplicability; its initial fundamental assumptions. While the field of operation of the gods (the inexplicable) has receded, it has, paradoxically, grown in volume.

Gödel’s incompleteness theorems show that one cannot use the laws of arithmetic to prove the fundamental axioms that arithmetic is built upon. Hilbert’s attempts to try and show that all the branches of mathematics can be reduced to a single set of consistent (if unprovable) axioms have so far failed and some believe that Gödel’s theorems show that Hilbert’s program is unattainable. Our intuition suggests that no rational system of logic can be used to prove the very assumptions that the logic system is built upon. Equally the assumptions and rules of one system of logic cannot be used to prove the assumptions of a different system of logic. This applies as much to all branches of science as well as to mathematics and philosophy and to all rational thought. There is no branch of the sciences or mathematics or philosophy which can avoid – or will ever be able to avoid – the use of fundamental assumptions. Note that even assumptions which are taken to be self-evident are never proven and cannot be proved. They just are. When things are – without explanation and without being self-explanatory – they represent a boundary of inexplicability. The more we know, the more we know that we don’t know. Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability is sufficient to convince me that the Unknowable exists. The known, the unknown and the unknowable. What lies beyond a boundary of inexplicability may be unknown but knowable, or it may be unknowable.

The gods are irrational because they lie at or beyond the boundaries of inexplicability and all rational thought is bounded to lie within the bounds of inexplicability. No discipline of rational thought has the means with which to illuminate the regions beyond the boundaries of that system of rational thought. The process of science can push back the boundaries of inexplicability, but cannot illuminate the regions beyond. Science can push back the region where the gods operate but science cannot illuminate the operations of its own, or any other, irrational gods. The fundamental assumptions of all rational thought are invocations of “self-evident truths” which are no different to our ancestors invoking the Sun God as a self-evident truth. I dismiss atheism since it attacks the answers of others as being irrational, without ever addressing the questions. Atheism cannot cope with the unknowable.

The known and the unknown are realms that are self-apparent. Science is the process at the interface of these regions which leads to the growth of the region of the known. All beliefs by definition lie in the region of the unknown. Any statement and its negation ( X and not-X) must both either lie in the region of knowledge, or both in the region of the unknown. It is not possible for one to live in the realm of knowledge and its negation to live in the region of the unknown. A belief in gods lies in the unknown. A lack of belief in gods (which is atheism) is not in itself a commentary on that belief. A denial of the belief in gods cannot then be anything other than belief and cannot shift into the realm of knowledge. A denial of a belief – which by definition lies in the unknown – is to claim knowledge of an unknown thing which is self-contradictory.

The God of the Big Bang and the gods of magnetism and gravitation and the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force lie at the edge of current inexplicability. The Religion of Science is replacing the old religions as a social construct for the supposed “common good”. The new gods of science and political correctness have replaced the gods of the sun and the moon and the waves and the wind. Instead of irrational animal gods we have the irrational gods of biodiversity and sustainability. The weather gods have been replaced by the gods of climate in the man-made global warming religion. But they too will be replaced by new gods with new labels when new boundaries of inexplicability are drawn.


 

God and The Big Bang are both just labels for Magic

January 22, 2018

The Universe was subject to a “Creation Event”. It was not, and then it was, (and if it always was it is even more troublesome). The Origin of Life is also a Creation Event. These two “creations” (of the universe and of life) are the great existential questions which require Magic.

Religion relies on the “inexplicable” to justify the invocation of Gods. God-magic. Atheism relies on the “power of reason” giving the lie to the existence of Gods.  But atheism is merely a rejection of one set of labels and explains nothing. Religions vest their Gods with sufficient attributes to explain away what cannot be explained. Atheism merely ignores the inexplicable or claims the inexplicable to be a consequence of random events. Theologians and physicists alike merely give labels to what they cannot explain – as if the label is in itself an explanation. Anything inexplicable is what Magic is. Of course, Magic itself is just a label. I take the view that the nature of humans is such that some things are unknowable. The Universe exists in dimensions we cannot access or even perceive. We can, through the process of science and reason, discover the laws applying to the universe we perceive but, at every step of increased knowledge, we find new “whys” we cannot address. We now believe there are four fundamental forces of nature (gravitation, electromagnetism, strong nuclear, weak nuclear) but have no idea why they should be just four and not five or a thousand. Depending on how you classify them there are 12 or 57 fundamental particles. Why 12 or why 57 is just as much magic as when the universe was considered to consist of just fire earth water and air. Gravity and electromagnetism are just as magical now as they ever were. You could as well have a gravity-god or space-time magic. “Why time” is the essence of magic. The Origin of Life is also just a label for a Creation Event. There are weird and wonderful theories about this, ranging from a random event in the primordial soup to extra-terrestrial intervention.

All religions and theologians – at best – indulge in lazy thinking. Creation Events are just assigned to an appropriately defined God. Gods are just labels generated to answer unanswerable questions. Physicists and biologists are not quite as intellectually lazy but still resort to labels to explain away inexplicable Magic. Physics and cosmology define their own Creation Event and call it the Big Bang. To resolve all the problems with the Big Bang theory, it is deemed a singularity where the laws of known physics did not apply. It is then stated to be the start of known time which neatly dismisses any need to consider what came before. We still have no idea of how life came to be, or can be, created from non-life. Theologians merely put it down to a convenient God.

Magic = inexplicable.

The universe was created by a magical event and dances to magical tunes played by magical instruments. Life was magically created by other magical music within this universe. Atheists and priests and physicists and theologians all actually believe in Magic. God-magic is no different to Big-Bang-magic or origin-of-life-magic. A belief in a God is just as much a belief in Magic as a belief in the Big Bang is.


 

Real Magic

December 26, 2017

Magic is perceived when

  1. an observation (an effect) has no perceivable cause, or
  2. an effect contrary to the laws of nature (as known) follows some cause.

“Magic tricks” and illusions create perceptions of either 1 or 2. This is not Real Magic. It is where the apparent magic lies in creating a perception which is contrary to reality.  A magician is then someone or some entity which causes effects, which are perceived – by others – as inexplicable and magic, but which would be no magic for the practitioner.

Real magic can thus never be practiced. It can only be perceived.

Hard sciences take the position that all observations are explainable even if the explanation is unknown at that time. All fields of learning – including the hard sciences and even philosophy and theology – perceive magic (observations with no perceivable cause, or effects contrary to the known laws of nature) but are extremely reluctant to admit to the concept of magic. There is a fear – in all fields of learning – to admit that some things may be unknowable. Physics and cosmology merely give labels to the inexplicable to disguise their perceptions of magic. Neither philosophers nor physicists can explain what time is or why it exists or why the arrow of time is unidirectional. The “Big Bang Singularity” is just a label as “Dark Energy” and “Dark Matter” are labels for postulated events or things that cannot be explained. “God” is also just a label used by theologians instead of admitting to the inexplicable. What scientists and theologians conveniently ignore is that a label is not in itself an explanation. The label “Big Bang” or the label “Allah” explain nothing if you add the prefix “Why”. The Why of waves and particles and quantum theory are all in the realm of magic. Why the physical constants of the universe are what they are is wondrous and magical. Why does the logic of mathematics work and why should π have the value it does? How could matter and anti-matter have been formed in the first place if they annihilate one another?

But Real Magic exists. Real Magic lies in that time exists and that the Universe exists (in that order). The concept of a flowing time is so ingrained that we cannot imagine the beginning of time without asking what came before time existed – even if “before” has then no meaning. That effect should follow cause is Real Magic. Why logic exists and why the Universe should follow any laws at all, is inexplicable and Real Magic.

Physics and religions have this in common. What they cannot explain, what they perceive as magic, they invent a label for.


 

Did religions originate as death rituals long before we were human?

August 7, 2017

The roots of religion lie very deep and probably go back to before our ancestors had become hominids.

The sequence probably began with rituals, possibly death and birth rituals in that order. The gods came later. They were likely invented and invested with magical powers to call for desired weather or to avoid natural disasters. Organised religions and their troublesome priests came even later. The use of death rituals most likely goes back to before our ancestors came down from the trees which would be before bipedalism and before the control of fire.

Animals may have religion:

First, animal responses to death show striking similarities to how humans religiously respond to death. For instance, magpies, gorillas, elephants, llamas, foxes, and wolves all use ritual to cope with the death of a companion. Magpies will peck the dead body and then lay blades of grass next to it. Gorillas hold something so similar to a “wake” that many zoos have formalized the ritual. Elephants hold large “funeral” gatherings and treat the bones of their deceased with great respect. Llamas utilize stillness to mourn for their dead. Foxes bury their dead completely, as do wolves, who, if they lose a mate, will often go without sex and seek solitude. In all of these cases, the animals rely on ritual to ease the pain of death. Even if one will not grant their rituals the title “religious,” at the very least the overlap between animal and human death rituals stands out as striking.

Hominids first appeared around 7 -8 million years ago. It is quite likely that they already had death rituals not unlike what we see in gorillas today. These rituals probably became quite complex over the next few million years as communication within and between social groups increased. It is also during this period that the “awe” engendered by natural catastrophes and nature in general was probably formalised into rituals.

…. primates respond to what appears to be the “awe” of nature in ways that could be described as “religious.” The chimpanzees of Gombe “dance” at the base of an enormous waterfall in the Kakombe Valley. This “dance” moves slowly and rhythmically alongside the riverbed. The chimps transition into throwing giant rocks and branches, and then hanging on vines over the stream until the vines verge on snapping. Their “dance” lasts for ten minutes or longer. For humans, this waterfall certainly instills awe and majesty. Obviously, no one can know the internal processes of a chimpanzee. That said, given the champanzees’ reaction to the waterfall and their evolutionary nearness to humans, it is not far-fetched to think that they too may experience feelings of awe when they encounter that waterfall.

Another set of primates, the savanna chimps of Senegal, perform a fire dance. Most animals flee from wildfires, fearing for their lives. To the contrary, these chimps only slowly move away from it, and at times even move closer to it. One dominant male went so far as to make a slow and exaggerated “display” at the fire.

For one last example of primates possibly exhibiting a reaction to the awe of nature, Gombe baboons perform a “baboon sangha.” Without signal or warning, these baboons sat in silence before a stream with many small pools and simply gazed at the water. They did this for over 30 minutes, without even the juveniles making a peep. Again without signal or warning, they resumed their normal activities.

The first god?

The control of fire only comes with homo erectus around 1.6 million years ago. By this time the idea of a sun-god and a moon-god and wind-gods had probably been established. The advent of fire gave rise to fire-gods as offshoots of the sun-god. Initially, I have no doubt, the priority was that the gods were to be placated. With survival the primary objective, natural disasters were to be avoided at all costs. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and storms unleashed unimaginable and inexplicable power and were ascribed to angry gods. Angry gods needed to be placated. It seems to me that explicitly seeking the favour of the gods – prayer – must have come much later.

The idea of priests as having a special position as the mediators between the rabble and the gods, probably coincides with the organisation of rituals and gods into religions. That, of course, is much more recent and probably no more than around 20,000 years ago.

Related: Do Animals Have Religion? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religion and Embodiment


 

Science (and the gods) rely equally on magic

July 3, 2017

The fundamental assumptions of science can be written in various ways but, for me, seem to boil down to four:

  1. The Universe exists
  2. Laws of nature (science) exist
  3. All phenomena are constrained to obey the laws of nature (science)
  4. The laws of nature (science) apply everywhere in the universe

The laws of nature are such that compliance with these laws is inbuilt. If there is any non-compliance it is not a law of nature. If compliance is all that we observe then it is a law of nature. But why the laws are what they are are usually beyond explanation.

Assumptions are not amenable to further question. You could apply an “if” to them or question “why” the assumption is true, but that is futile for there are no answers. They are just taken as self-evident and the starting point of rational thought. They are never, in themselves, self-explanatory except in the trivial form. (Assume that 1+1=2. Therefore 2+2=4 and that proves that 1+1=2).

I apply the word “magic” to all that is inexplicable. And all the fundamental laws of nature (science) are built on a foundation of inexplicable magic. How many fundamental particles exist and why? It’s magic. If the laws of science only apply after the Big Bang but don’t apply at the Big Bang singularity itself, what laws did? It’s magic. If the laws apply to a supernova but not inside a black hole, it’s magic. (Never mind that a black hole seems to be a part of the universe where the laws of science do not apply which violates the assumption that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic (Assumption 4 above). Why are there 4 – and only 4 – fundamental forces in nature? It’s magic. How did time begin? It’s magic. Can empty space exist without even the property of dimensions? It’s magic. Can time be a dimension and not have negative values? It’s magic. Dark energy and dark matter are merely labels invoking magic. All science which relies on fundamental assumptions is ultimately built upon and dependent upon a set of inexplicable, fundamental statements. They are just magic.

A fundamental flaw with the claim of physics, that all of history up to just after the Big Bang is explainable by the laws of science, must also mean that all of the future is also fixed and determined by the laws of science applied to conditions now. What will happen was therefore fixed for all time by the Big Bang itself. And that, too, is indistinguishable from magic.

Religions do not just rely on magic, they claim the magic for their gods. Modern, “with-it” religions, which try to be “compatible” with the latest knowledge discovered by science, merely claim that their God(s) pushed the button which caused the Big Bang. That my God is greater than your God is magic. That there is a life after death, or reincarnation, or rebirth or an ultimate state of grace is also just magic.

Shiva, Kali, Jesus, Allah, nirvana, dark energy, dark matter and the Big Bang singularity are all labels for different facets of magic.

Magic, by any other name, is just as inexplicable.


 

Without first having religions, atheism and agnosticism cannot exist

June 27, 2017

I take science to be the process by which areas of ignorance are explored, illuminated and then shifted into our space of knowledge. One can believe that the scientific method is powerful enough to answer all questions – eventually – by the use of our cognitive abilities. But it is nonsense to believe that science is, in itself, the answer to all questions. As the perimeter surrounding human knowledge increases, what we know that we don’t know, also increases. There is what we know and at the perimeter of what we know, lies what we don’t know. Beyond that lies the boundless space of ignorance where we don’t know what we don’t know.

Religions generally use a belief in the concept of a god (or gods) as their central tenet. By definition this is within the space of ignorance (which is where all belief lives). For some individuals the belief may be so strong that they claim it to be “personal knowledge” rather than a belief. It remains a belief though, since it cannot be proven. Buddhism takes a belief in gods to be unnecessary but – also within the space of ignorance – believes in rebirth (not reincarnation) and the “infinite” (nirvana). Atheism is just as much in the space of ignorance since it is based on the beliefs that no gods or deities or the supernatural do exist. Such beliefs can only come into being as a reaction to others having a belief in gods or deities or the supernatural. But denial of a non-belief cannot rationally be meaningful. If religions and their belief in gods or the supernatural did not first exist, atheism would be meaningless. Atheism merely replaces a belief in a God to a belief in a Not-God.

I take the blind worship of “science” also to be a religion in the space of ignorance. All physicists and cosmologists who believe in the Big Bang singularity, effectively believe in an incomprehensible and unexplainable Creation Event. Physicists who believe in dark matter or dark energy, as mysterious things, vested with just the right properties to bring their theories into compliance with observations of an apparently expanding universe, are effectively invoking magic. When modern physics claims that there are 57 fundamental particles but has no explanation as to why there should be just 57 (for now) or 59 or 107 fundamental particles, they take recourse to magical events at the beginning of time. Why there should be four fundamental forces in our universe (magnetism, gravitation, strong force and weak force), and not two or three or seven is also unknown and magical.

Agnosticism is just a reaction to the belief in gods. Whereas atheists deny the belief, agnostics merely state that such beliefs can neither be proved or disproved; that the existence of gods or the supernatural is unknowable. But by recognising limits to what humans can know, agnosticism inherently accepts that understanding the universe lies on a “higher” dimension than what human intelligence and cognitive abilities can cope with. That is tantamount to a belief in “magic” where “magic” covers all things that happen or exist but which we cannot explain. Where atheism denies the answers of others, agnosticism declines to address the questions.

The Big Bang singularity, God(s), Nirvana and the names of all the various deities are all merely labels for things we don’t know in the space of what we don’t know, that we don’t know. They are all labels for different kinds of magic.

I am not sure where that leaves me. I follow no religion. I believe in the scientific method as a process but find the “religion of science” too self-righteous and too glib about its own beliefs in the space of ignorance. I find atheism is mentally lazy and too negative. It is just a denial of the beliefs of others. It does not itself address the unanswerable questions. It merely tears down the unsatisfactory answers of others. Agnosticism is a cop-out. It satisfies itself by saying the questions are too hard for us to ever answer and it is not worthwhile to try.

I suppose I just believe in Magic – but that too is just a label in the space of ignorance.


 


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