On faith

In response to my DNA post the other day, Cadabra commented with the following question:

“Ken, in some fantastic situation, if you had to provide an illustration of existence of god and divine creation, what would it be?”

This seemed like a very good question, deserving of thought. At first I took it as a challenge, and started trying to come up with a plausible answer. But then I found that the more I thought about it, the more elusive it became.

The basic difficulty, in a nutshell, is this: Science and religion are not actually two opposing views of the same issue. In fact they deal with wildly different issues. At its core, science asks how things work and how they came about. It’s all about cause and effect.

Religion asks how we can live a life that does not feel spiritually empty. And the answer it comes up with is faith. The very focus on faith automatically precludes discussions of cause and effect. If you could find a scientific solution to these spiritual questions, faith would not be required.

If our science were to actually find some all-powerful guy up in the heavens who created us, that wouldn’t be God. That would just be some large space alien with a long white flowing beard. The moment you start to refer to the nuts and bolts of evidence and logical causality, you’ve shifted out of the realm of faith.

So to address Cadabra’s question, I believe that “an illustration of existence of god and divine creation” would be, by definition, impossible.

Scientific discussion aims to move things from the realm of the unknown to the realm of the known. Faith is not concerned with the unknown, but rather with the unknowable. And you cannot illustrate the existence of something that is unknowable.

2 thoughts on “On faith”

  1. Historically, religion has made plenty of claims to factual truth and explanation, it is just that these have been completely eroded away, except among fundamentalists.

    Here is what when I would start to believe in God: God comes down and speaks to me directly, interacts with other people in a way that I can see, makes miracles I can witness with my own eyes. If those things were to happen, then I could interpret it either as my own mental delusion, or evidence that God is real, and the latter would eventually seem more plausible.

    So far, God hasn’t done any of that for me.

  2. Well, that’s the interesting thing. If an entity calling itself God came down the way you describe, and did all those things, it’s not clear to me that entity would be recognized as God, the way people generally mean it. That entity would probably generally be perceived as a big space-alien which just happened to call itself “God”.

    If I understand this correctly, I don’t think most people would accept a God they merely perceive through their senses. People need the element of faith. It’s actually the unknowability that draws them to religion, on an emotional level.

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