Monday, April 27, 2015

The Nothing of the Gaps

You may be familiar with the phrase “The God of the gaps”; it might be used when Christians (or any deists) use gaps in scientific knowledge as evidence for God’s existence. I can remember a comedian mocking believers by using a childish voice to answer “God did it!” to some ultimate questions of science.

Q: What caused the Big Bang?
A: God did it!

Q: How can a spontaneous “Big Bang” give us a highly fine-tuned and intelligible universe?
A: God did it!

Q: How can ordered, but dead matter & energy become alive?
A: God did it!

Q: How can something alive become self-aware?
A: God did it!

As science closes gaps between what we know and what we don’t know about the material world, will the god that lives in those gaps eventually be squeeze out of the minds of people? I should think that for every gap science closes several more gaps open up, but whatever the gaps are, is the more rational and intelligent answer to say “nothing did it”?
Any thinking Christian will, of course, acknowledge the many secondary causes that exist in all of reality, but God as the first cause of all things material and immaterial is a non-negotiable dogma. Likewise, a strict materialist or strong atheist will recognize secondary causes, but do they not essentially defer to “nothing” as the ultimate answer to certain gaps? So we end up with "the nothing of the gaps".
Nothing to see here...
Move along...

The Gap from Meaning:
Q: If we come from nothing for the purpose of nothing and are going back to nothing, what is the meaning behind it all?
A: Nothing.

One might strongly object and answer, “We make our own meaning!” Making our own meaning in life may be compared to multiplying a number by zero. No matter how huge the number, multiplying by zero always makes it zero. No matter what you achieve in life, when you decay to nothingness it becomes “zero”. No matter how many future generations you help, each one is “multiplied by zero” as the universe marches on indifferently.

Meaning is received, not made. Professor Joseph Ratzinger (future B16) gives a clever analogy to self-made meaning in his book Introduction to Christianity (2004 edition, pp 73). Imagine a man trying to pull himself out of a bog by his own hair. This is the absurdity of the statement, “We make our own meaning.”
Little help!?!

The Gap from Goodness:
Q: What is the ultimate source for the good, the beautiful and the true?
A: Nothing.

One might object and answer, “These are merely human opinions & concepts that evolve over time, so the ultimate source is human.”  And what is the ultimate source of humans? The answer would still come back to nothing if we truly come from nothing intelligent and with no intended purpose.

The Gap from Intelligence:                                                                  
Q: Since the universe is highly intelligible, where did its intelligibility come from?
A: Nothing.

Many atheists can gladly agree that the known universe began some 13.7 billion years ago and that every effect must have a cause, so if there was a big-bang there must also be a “big-banger”. They may even go so far as to agree that the big banger (whatever caused the big bang) must be something outside the known universe, but no matter how much consensus there is, it seems to stop at the gap of “intelligence”.

No matter how incredibly fine-tuned things are, like the universe, our planet, our minds & our bodies, their origins must be “dumb”. No matter how much evidence of design there is it can only be by chance. The thinking of the past was that a highly ordered and intelligible universe must clearly have an intelligent creator. Today’s “progressive” thinking is that a highly ordered and intelligible universe must clearly come from mindlessness…clearly. One might call this having an irrational "faith" in chance.

If we insist on “nothing” to fill the gaps for the most important question in life, then the effect of original sin that dims the intellect is easy to see.

“Those who run after nothing become nothing”
– Pope Francis
In the last analysis it's either all or nothing.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Religious Liberty & Analytical Problem Solving

One of the basic tenets of the analytical problem solving process employed by our company is to carefully compare what is perceived to be a problem to what is perceived to be OK.  The more closely related the two things are, the more relevant the comparison. From here one can fret-out distinctions between what is seen as OK and what is seen as a problem and use those distinctions to formulate possible causes, or to help determine if there is actually any problem at all.

This kind logic can be applied to the religious liberty debates going on right now. If refusing to sell goods & services for a same-sex marriage celebration because of one’s personal beliefs should be illegal, then other similar “refusals” to other similar “events” should also be illegal.

THIS ARTICLE from National Review does a good job of presenting some relevant comparisons. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Are we prepared to handcuff a feminist photographer who won’t take pictures at a strip club event?
We may not know whether or not the photographer hates the people in the club or loves them, she just does not want her business to be associated with this specific kind of event. Should she be punished?
  • Do we respect a black jazz band’s choice not to perform at a Ku Klux Klan chapter’s “Negro Minstrel Show”?
Here again, the band members may not hate white people at all. They just do not want to be part of this performance in any way. Should they be punished?
  • Do we respect a pro–gun control photographer’s right to choose not to snap pictures at a “Sharpshooter of the Year” banquet organized by the local chapter of the National Rifle Association?
It’s not that the photographer will never take any pictures of any NRA members at any event. It’s the meaning behind this particular event that is the concern.
  • Do we respect a Jewish calligrapher’s right to choose not to produce hand-written invitations for a Hitler Day brunch organized by a local neo-Nazi group?
Once again, the ideology behind the brunch and what it represents is the problem.

The following would be a dissimilar comparison:
  • A restaurant owner refuses to serve gay people because he personally believes all gay people are evil.
So what is distinctive between the first four examples and the last one? The focus of attention with the first ones is some event or celebration and the ideology behind it, not the actual person(s) involved. In other words, it’s about the principle, not the person. The difference is vast.
The more our society accepts transcendent things, like right vs. wrong, as only opinions, the more we will accept a kind of soft tyranny where the government takes on the role of “moral compass". They will tell us which way is just and which way is unjust, fair or unfair and you will obey or be punished. Religious liberty is a founding principle of the U.S. and watching its own citizens leading the charge against people of faith into this oppression may be the saddest part of the whole mess.
You will obey or be punished!