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  • Yes, God.

    This is not a rebuttal. But it could work as one.

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    It’s curious how I can look back briefly and see my own inflammation by religion. In fact, it’s quite embarrassing to realise that in such a short time my mind was swayed so indefinitely away from an opinion I had held so firmly. How on earth did I move from worshipping Dawkins and Hitchens, hating God and finding myself condescendingly superior to all theists, to a point of mellow neutrality that has me more inclined to theism than atheism?

    Philosophy: it’s overrated by its practitioners and underrated by its enemies. As such, I find myself obliged to sing its praises, and urge every individual who feels absolutely sure in their beliefs, be them theistic, atheistic, pantheistic, or any other combination of blasphemy, to take up its extensive teachings with a blank mind. I did exactly the same – though my mind was not blank. I did constantly tell myself that I was being open minded, and – should a good argument present itself in favour of God – I would accept that argument wholeheartedly. Yet I resisted the tugs and pulls of the old masters that told me that there was more than metaphysics in reality with such frantic passion, that when I finally looked in the mirror and relinquished my hold on The God Delusion, I found great logical absolutes making sense to me. If you read this with a distinct and proud Godlessness, I urge you to do the same. Likewise, if you read with a strong fanaticism or theistic sureness, take up arms with the atheists and research!

    What course of action spurred my change? I had more time on my hands than I ever wanted, and realised that I couldn’t waste it. I wanted to read, and I wanted to learn. I managed to get hold of an old teacher of mine, who was more than surprised to hear from me, and I told her how I regretted my decision to avoid university, and how I wanted to learn the philosophy course she taught to her students as though I was at university. Kindly, she sent me what I needed: countless powerpoints and word documents full of information and research points. With a sense of direction, I worked through them. I attended some lectures and conferences in London, clutching firmly to whatever book I was reading, and soaked it all in with the same enthusiasm I had when I was a schoolboy, and the same enthusiasm I dread losing. These were new waters to me, waters I had long wanted to travel but had no knowledge of how. Passion flared in me, and as I learned I started to feel myself change; I became more open and ready to accept a spiritual presence in my life. From there, seeing the logic of theism and deism was much easier.

    I worked through Anselm’s Ontological Argument. I wondered with Aquinas the need for a Prime Mover. But what turned me was something that, during my godless years, I had told myself was the most simplistic and idiotic argument to have: an argument from design. Beauty around us has urged millions of hugely intelligent men and women in the past to take up God’s word: the simple presence of spring led Wordsworth to a state of awe-filled sadness; St Francis felt a numinous force behind his emotional responses to the attractiveness of a flower. Beauty could have pushed me over the edge, but it was complexity that did that for me.

    Richard Swinburne, a Jesuit, wrote an interesting situation to consider. Imagine you have been kidnapped and tied to a chair. The kidnapper, a sadistic and playful killer, shows you ten card shuffling machines. He tells you with a most devious glint in his eyes that unless every machine shows an ace of hearts, he will hit a detonator that will kill both you both. You know that your fate has already been decided: the chances of those machines spilling that single card are so slim that you start preparing for your death. The first machine throws out an ace of hearts. What a lucky coincidence! The second machine does the same. You perk up as the third machine gives you an ace of hearts. 7 more follow from each other machine. Your heart leaps at first; the kidnapper frowns. Both of you are thinking the same thing: the machines must be rigged. The chances are that happening legitimately so are slim that you immediately assume an intelligence behind the result. I’m sure you can see where Swinburne is going with this: you can line up a thousand machines, each with 3120 cards, and the chances of them each coming out with the ace of hearts is still more probable than the universe being formed so perfectly, so complexly, and still managing to create life that evolves into creatures intelligent enough to marvel at the universe on a computer program, reading tiny little squares that form a language understood by millions of those creatures. Each second you can look around and see the wonders of the universe, and suddenly William Paley’s argument from design doesn’t seem so ridiculous: stumbling on a watch, you assume it had a watchmaker. The universe is simply too complex – if you come out from this and decide to research into philosophy, I will also advise that you research into quantum mechanics. Suddenly the complexities are far more awesome and unbelievable.

    I think the nail in the theistic coffin came with quantum mechanics. Let me give you some examples. Quantum superpositioning was the realisation that, under the right circumstances, a subatomic particle can be in two places at once. It sounds like there must be more to it, but when you break down the complexities of uncertainty and different particle-states, that is, in Layman’s terms, the known truth. Quantum entanglement was the realisation that, if two subatomic particles are ‘born’ at the same time, they can be forever entangled, so that if one turns into its ‘up-state’, then the other particles will turn to its ‘down-state’ no matter what the distance is between them. With this one, there is more to it: we can only be sure of it through observation. For example, if you see someone walking around a corner and you first see their shoe and notice they’re wearing a pink sock, your assumption will be that the other foot is sporting a pink sock. But in entanglement, the very observation of the first sock being pink will mean that the second sock will be blue. Another amazing scientific discovery is quantum tunnelling, which you can see around you every day. If an electron hits a physical barrier (like a wall), it will bounce away. However, in tunnelling, if there is an energy-rich source on the other side of the wall, then the electron will physically burrow through the wall to get to the other side. There are hundreds of more incredible discoveries. One of my favourites is Hesienberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which states that knowing the speed of an object will directly affect how much you can know about its position. The very act of observation makes subatomic particles change. Electrons can be waves, rather than particles, until they’re observed: by observing them, you can make them into particles.

    Knowing of these amazing discoveries that occur billions of times all around us every day, it becomes instantaneously more difficult to support a something-from-nothing universe that has absolutely no design. Harmonious functionality in every aspect of reality urges us to believe in some form of intelligent design. But, as Dawkins says, it could all ‘just be numbers’. Like raining floppy discs outside (you should probably Google that). He’s right – it could easily just be a fallacy of our humanity that tells us that this can’t just happen. But if quantum mechanics has taught us anything, other than how little science really knows, it’s that we have really underestimated the intelligence of humans. We are remarkable creatures: if logic is really a universal absolute, then as masters of logic we are masters of the universe. If our logical thinking tells us that the improbability of creation-without-design is just too high, then our logical thinking has made a good point.

    But despite all I've laid down, this still doesn’t tell us to believe in a theistic God. How does this idea of creation link to just a Judeo-Christian God? It doesn’t – if you take anything away from this, it’s that the probability of an omnipotent creator is higher than some atheists would like you to think. I don’t want to pretend that this kind of design points to an omnibenevolent creator, because it doesn’t. Even I haven’t made that step: I currently consider myself a deist – someone who believes in an all-powerful creator, but not a spiritual and/or all-loving creator. My creator is there by necessity, not by desire. Maybe I’ll find myself desiring a theistic God and make the jump to being a biblical believer, but at the moment I find no need for there to be a God who listens to my prayers, just a God that will fill in the gaps of a logical universe that, without him, is really quite illogical.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Yes, God. started by Nick View original post
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