Dawkins:1 liberal Christians: 0

9 04 2012

I just finished watching Cardinal George Pell get slow roasted by Richard Dawkins on our Australian Monday night institution, (for people without much else better to do) the TV show on our National Broadcaster, “Q&A”. It was, I would imagine, similar to the reaction I would have seeing Rowan Atkinson (as Mr Bean, or any other character for that matter!) fighting Tank Abbott in an Ultimate Fighting Cage. You wonder who the hell was organising the match-ups, wishing that the brutality would just end but curiously not being able to look away.

Seriously, Dawkins is an atheistic lightweight. You don’t send out any liberal theologian to do a man’s job in the fight about the existence of God, the nature of suffering, the origins of man or whether the bloody wafer is actually the physical body of Christ. No wonder he got stood on. OK, so how DO you fight Dawkins on smug philosophy 101 questions??

Firstly, you need someone who believes a) that God is REALLY amazing, not just kind of amazing, b) you need to have the balls to suggest that maybe we didn’t arrive here by evolutionary processes and c) understands both science and the experience of the metaphysical. Pell is simply NOT that man. That’s OK, fortunately we have tens (perhaps hundreds) of millions worldwide who could audition for that role. SO.. let’s answer some questions, hey?

1. If God made the universe, who made God? Yawn. Sorry, no seriously. Your problem is your God. Your God is probably, at best, a demi God, more at home with the plethora of  Hindu Gods or the Greek, soap opera variety. The God of the Bible, he who twisted Moses’ mind into a pretzel with the moniker: “I am that I am” is really, really big, amazing, in a pan-dimensional way. Scientists are well aware that time is a construct that falls naturally out of matter. The rhythm of time has its roots in creation. A starting point. String theory (all five of them) elegantly points us in this direction when it is considered that all matter is oscillation. That is all time is. Oscillation in a linear fashion. The last oscillation was before this one. The bubble of matter and residual energy that we now call the universe must be defined by it. All that is outside, unless it shares physicality as ours clearly does has no necessity to be bound by time. Indeed, it is rather strange that we perceived anything outside the physical. That is not natural. We have no evidence that 1.5 million other species have any idea of the non-physical.

Indeed, CS Lewis was one who clearly articulated this most curious dilemma. How on Earth could we have made up God? How do you imagine something we can’t imagine? Here’s a simple example of this. Scientists have known since Newton’s work on light and the extension of work by Niels Bohr, Max Planck and others that the light we see is but one part of an enormous spectrum which includes ‘light’ we can’t see. Can you imagine a colour you haven’t seen? Can you conjure up a sound you haven’t yet heard or a taste of food you haven’t experienced?

The very idea that we could ever have ‘invented God’ in such metaphysical detail being an intangible entity not bound by our physical universe is an extreme stretch to many theists. We simply find it hard to muster the faith that atheists employ to deny God’s existence.

Our neurological processes rely on the input of stimuli just like every other creature from the physical world, how can it conceive that which is unlike any stimulus it has every received? To suggest that God requires a creator is as anthropomorphic as those that suggest in science fiction that other lifeforms must have arms and legs and bulbous eyes.. it lacks creativity and shows a fairly primitive closed-mindedness to the likely possibility of radically different dimensions in those “10+1” to our own. Next question!!

2. How can you believe in a literal 6 day creation?? It’s NUTS, man!!! I find this irony from secularists like Dawkins beautifully sweet. I, like many who value both scientific thought and a love for Jesus Christ have no difficulty imagining the vast bulk of our universe being stretched out in nanoseconds from point zero. The intelligence behind that beautiful, complicated and yet elegantly simple process could have done it in a fraction of the time. In the same way, that same God could order creation of life on Earth and the ridiculous diversity of life in six days.. he could do it in six nanoseconds if he so chose, but he used our clock, the 23 hours and fifty six minutes of the planet for days and gave it a jaunty tilt of 23 degrees to give us the beautiful complexity of thermal variation during the year that keeps life, fluids, fields and horny little sheep frollicking in the spring every year. Now, an evolutionist has plenty of cognitive space for the former (Big Bang Bloody fast) but not the creation (six actual days). Why? Because he must. You see, the universe is now a lot older than when I was in school, it seems to be over 5.3 billion years old now! Evolution which arises through the addition of new, novel or useful blueprints for viable proteins in the fabric of Deoxyribosenucleic Acid requires a LOT of time. A ridiculous amount of time. More time than Darwin in his wildest dreams could ever imagine. You see, the system works too bloody well. Our own bodies copy our original 46 chromosomes perfectly, for the vast majority of us, several trillion times over our entire lifetime. Let’s put it another way, the current US debt is around 15 Trillion US dollars. Let’s make it easier by imagining $100 bills making that debt up. If we stacked it up in neat piles, the notes would fill every inch of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre destroyed in 2001. Imagine though, if you had only one of those notes to copy and every other one was a copy of it? Even with the most sophisticated method of reproduction of ink on paper your 15 Billionth note would be unrecognisable using any method on the planet to reproduce it from existing copies. That is one human. We can go back through thousands of years of human evolution and see no change, let alone improvements on the basic model. We know this because scientist like Maughan et al (2002 here: http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/9/1637.full), Rainey (2009, here:Nature 461, 1219-1221 (29 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/4611219a; Published online 28 October 2009), and, of course, the nasty little thorn in the evolutionary side of Lenski in his much-quoted work (1991, here:Nature 461, 1219-1221 (29 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/4611219a; Published online 28 October 2009).

Of course, Lenski showed that a ridiculously simple creature like E.Coli, found in your poo, couldn’t evolve it’s way out of  a metaphorical wet paper bag (actually an environment with low glucose as a food stressor). In 40, 000 generations, only five genes played ‘hot potatoes” and not a single base pair was added to its genome. That is like a million years of human evolution. But hang on, we have millions of adaptations that flow from every stem cell that each of us are made of?? Yeah, I know. But hang on, there are MILLIONS of species alive and MILLIONS of others that aren’t with us today? Yeah, I know. But hang on, the universe it NOT OLD ENOUGH FOR THAT AMOUNT OF MUTATIONS???!!! Yeah, maybe, or else evolution is just a crap theory. Now this buggers up both George Pell (as a an evolutionary sympathiser) AND Dawkins???!! Yeah, I know. The REAL God can do things FAST. He doesn’t need the construct of time (created by Him) as a tool to design and create.

When objects are created ex Nihilo (out of nothing) there is the conundrum of apparent age. I have no problem with Adam having been created as an adult, not a baby, so on day one, he ‘looked’ like an adult male, even though he was one day old. The same for our planets and every object in the cosmos which developed this way.

Apparent age is also easy to understand. I dump a truckload of dirt in my back yard with a tip truck it arrived at more or less the same time (allowing for acceleration due to gravity off the truck). Now an ant who finds that pile five minutes later and notices the odd few grains of dirt still falling off the back of the truck can grab his pocket calculator (ok, it’s an analogy, OK?!!) and determine that it took forty five years for this dirt mountain to form… but he’d be wrong (could be a ‘she’ but there’s NO WAY, I’m looking up its abdomen!!). You see, the assumption of uniformity was false. Things rarely happen in our universe in a linear way (that’s why you need to learn indices and logarithms, kids *wink*!). In fact, we’ve seen beautiful layered ‘sedimentary’ rock form in months after one of the world’s most studied volcanic eruptions, Mt St Helens, in 1981.

Could the Earth have an apparent age? Yep. Could our crude methods of dating the planet be faulty, with weak assumptions and methodology? Hell yeah. Do I know how old the Earth is, exactly? Nope. Do you? Nope. Does it matter? Yes, profoundly, to an evolutionist.

3. (If there is a God), Why is there so much suffering in the world? The funny thing about our Western concepts of God is how they usually resemble the framework of Egyptian, Greek (and by Xerox extension: the Romans) than they do the first century idea of the trinity. The reason is the obsession with personal comfort. Fatalists like those common throughout Asia and the subcontinent have little trouble understanding it. The gods are fickle and crazy and you can’t guarantee good if you worship them but you can sure as hell (figuratively speaking only) bet that they will zap you if you don’t. You see, we love the rational thought and the fashion of the Greeks (if not the mathematics!) but it seems unfair that these gods can just let so much mean stuff happen.

Does it occur to rationalists that humans can be bloody mean. It takes NO time for young kids to be mean to each other, they learn it faster than the tune to Bob the Builder. Why don’t people take responsibility for ALL their crap? Not just the pollution, not just the planet what about your crappy behaviour??? Why is that ‘God’s fault’?? If you don’t get cancer, do you automatically assume that God has been looking after you? If you didn’t die in a tornado yesterday, did you stop to think that God was shining down on you??? So why blame Him for your crap?? Easy. Your God is not the Christian God. It is some other god.

What parent truly believes that the best way to raise a child is to wrap them in cotton wool and shield them from anything even slightly bad? It is a naive concept of a deity to attribute the main role of that deity to make life sweet. Unsurprisingly, this idea is most common where the richest 1% of people live on our planet. Being fat, lazy, materialistic and indulged is not enough.. if there is a God, he ought to be giving us EVEN more nice stuff!!! No. We have the poor because people are selfish, crave power and, in places, we’ve buggered up the land so that it can no longer support us. Along with that comes disease, depravity, violence and desperation. The solution for suffering is not by its removal but by a divine change of heart to turn the selfish to compassion, to turn injustice to justice, to turn those poor in spirit deprived of love to the original source of love in the one, BIG, God.

Ok, this is the longest piece I have ever written on the blog here. It’s not terribly funny but hopefully you can see that a robust faith that doesn’t piss around trying to be all things to all men is the only defence against the denial of God. Our faith is NOT about just being a good little sausage and gambling that you’ll get into heaven. Original sin did not evolve. The Bible is not simply a bunch of stories. If it is, how come believers like Pell pick and choose which bits are right. If Christ is a mere philosophy, he deserves a chapter in a text book, not lifelong devotion.

So far, we have just dealt with the physical, the nature of God and the problem of suffering but I suggest that neither Pell, nor certainly Dawkins, has ever experienced the metaphysical/supernatural/scientifically unexplainable. I and many hundreds of millions of other Christians have. Next blog will get really interesting… I promise!