Wednesday, October 26, 2011

War of the Worldviews: Let's Talk God

Here is an article from Huffington Post's religion section. I can't say that I agree 100% with everything the author says but I thought it was a good read. It was written by Deepak Chopra who is a hindu doctor and public speaker and recently wrote a book entitled "War of the Worldviews" which he references in the following article.

"In this series of posts about science and spirituality, I've left God for last, even though God has become the hottest topic as we struggle toward the future. The arguments against belief in God have been stridently raised by a small band of scientific atheists -- their avowed leader, Richard Dawkins, has become a household name. In our recent book, "War of the Worldviews," my co-author, Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow, doesn't pursue the atheist line. His worldview is scientific, but Leonard holds a view that is much more defensible than atheism:

"While science often casts doubt on spiritual beliefs and doctrines insofar as they make representations about the physical world, science does not -- and cannot -- conclude that God is an illusion."

I believe that spirituality can take hints from modern science to actually support the existence of God. Some of these hints have emerged from quantum physics, which long ago showed that the seemingly solid, convincing world of matter and energy actually derives from a highly uncertain, invisible realm that existed before time and space. Is this the domain of God? If so, it can't be the God of Genesis, a human-like figure sitting above the clouds who created heaven and earth in seven days. I think a new and expanded spirituality can deliver a God that is the same as pure intelligence, creativity and consciousness. Such a God is our source without being human -- a source from which all possibilities emerge and flow. Quite a number of credentialed scientists are thinking in the same direction without necessarily being religious. It would explain a lot about the cosmos if we fit into a living, conscious universe."

I would like to indicate here that I don't think the God of Gensis is necessarily a "man sitting up there in the clouds" I think that is largely a creation of human minds. In trying to relate to God humans seem to picture an old man in the sky with a beard. I'm under the impression that when we read that we are created in the image of God we are to understand that we are created in the nature of God. Its spiritual not physical. Now back to the article.

"Dawkins uses every tactic he can find -- including some underhanded ones -- to make it seem that science can disprove God. Leonard is right, however, to deny this. In simplest terms, you can't prove that something doesn't exist. But the scientific atheists are really relying on probabilities. Having mounted a heated attack on myth, superstition and belief in the supernatural (most of this argument is seriously outdated and belongs in the Victorian age), Dawkins tells us that all religious experience should be judged on rational grounds, asking how likely it really is that God, the soul, the afterlife or any other aspect of spirit actually could be true.

This stupendously misses the point. It's in the very nature of spirituality not to conform to everyday reason and logic. The point of spirituality is to transcend the ordinary world and reveal something invisible, unknown and yet part of ourselves. If an exotic traveler came to the court of a medieval king and claimed to have seen a rhinoceros, even there reason and probability wouldn't help. It makes no sense to test the claim of a new species of animal by saying, "How likely is it that this creature exists?" You produce the rhinoceros or you don't. But Dawkins throws out of court the thousands of spiritual experiences that are a continuous thread in human existence. He doesn't want to examine if they are true; he only wants to examine how many ways they could be false.

That's offensive and intellectually dishonest, ultimately appealing only to die-hard skeptics of the same stripe. Religion has enough bad things in its long, checkered history -- and science has enough triumphs -- that atheism seems to have a strong hand. In our book I argue that the case can be made in reverse, however. Science has given us atomic bombs, ever-new mechanized warfare, biological and chemical weapons, and countless forms of environmental pollution. If we want the best that science has to offer, are we destined to accept the worst along with it?

Not if spirituality is taken seriously, which means valuing our inner world. Science doesn't deal in purpose and meaning; it deals in data and measurement. Dawkins makes the fatal mistake of believing that data and measurement are superior to everyday experience. His brand of skepticism doesn't work to bring light; more often, it revels in making people feel insecure and doubtful.

In reality, life is about purpose and meaning. We don't have to throw those things out just because they aren't scientific. Quite the opposite. Like it or not, the scientist works on behalf of human beings who want even more purpose and meaning. If God is the word we apply to highest purpose, why not keep it? Or if another word is needed, a term that has no religious baggage, let's find one. The spiritual worldview is our salvation if we want to save the planet. I have no doubt of that, and our best hope is that science becomes part of the project that will redeem our future, not an enemy to the highest and best in human nature."


  1. The false premise of the article is that science and Dawkins are trying to disprove God. It can't and any atheist will admit this. Instead, the argument is that "god" is not necessary. There is no proof of its existence and there is nothing that requires it to exist. It might as well be imaginary.

    Dawkins and atheists don't toss out spiritual experiences - they just offer alternative explanations that are based on what is naturally possible, observable, and testable (rather than supernatural, unexplainable, or magical).

    Guys like Deepak Chopra are gaining a huge religious audience for the simple reason that faith in any specific god is becoming more and more difficult to defend. We simply cannot know the characteristics of "mystery" - so instead of defending a specific deity, Chopra is able to defend the idea that mystery is grand and supernatural does exist without pinning it down to anything that is testable. Religious people love this stuff and feel it defends their belief in a defined God. But it doesn't. It just picks up the mystery of the universe, life, and anything else unexplainable (basically god of the gaps) and says it is beautiful and magical rather than saying it is, as science and atheists would argue, beautiful and natural.

    And he is very smart to maintain the term "god". This gives him a much larger reach.

    As for "If God is the word we apply to the highest purpose, why not keep it?" The reason we shouldn't keep it (if you believe in Chopra's view of god) is that the term "god" is tied to so many implied characteristics and definitions that Chopra's god doesn't necessarily embody. The purpose of words is to provide clarity of meaning. If "god" implies "personal god, listens to prayer, wants you to follow commands, all-loving, all-powerful, intervenes in life, or whatever else" and you don't mean any of those things when you say "god" then you should use a different word.

  2. Yeah I understand and agree that Dawkins and the new atheists aren't necessarily trying to disprove God. However Dawkins does say that "accepting science demands atheism." That is what I dont agree with. You can say that science is arguing that god is not necessary but on what grounds? That's not a scientific belief that's a personal opinion. We simply don't have the evidence to state whether or not god was necesary for life and consciousness etc. There's no natural explanation that's sufficient to answer this question and there might never be. You can call it god of the gaps, which I'm not saying it isn't, but you can't say science has a better explanation or that it's naturally possible because that goes beyond the available evidence. I would even argue that it goes against the observable evidence, but I understand that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence so we'll see where the evidence leads us in the coming years.

    Also you're right that Dawkins and Harris and whoever don't completely discount the religious experiences, yes they do provide natural explanations (which are sometimes the obvious best answers while other times they are grasping at straws). The point is that a natural explanation doesn't necessarily mean that it is the right explanation but that obviously goes both ways.

  3. I'll agree with you that "accepting science" doesn't demand atheism. However, it does make one move away from some of the more conservative and literal religious viewpoints... but there will always be mysteries where you can tuck god into if you want.

    In regards to god not being necessary - I'm referring to a personal god. Maybe something unexplainable was necessary at the beginning - an incredible molecule springing out of a black hole, a universe that always existed, or a flying spaghetti monster. I don't know. Maybe something was required back then to start everything and you can call that god. But that's just deism. Scientists will agree that something is not understood, but they just don't call that thing "god" or give this unknown entity any additional characteristics. As for a personal god that is involved in our daily lives, there is no evidence for it. Is there even a mystery in day-to-day operation of our lives that necessitates such a being without having to go back to "in the beginning"? As long as people are arguing for the existence of god and relying on "the beginning of time" or "an eternal entity" as the argument, it's just fighting for deism and there is no way to determine the characteristics of the entity. It is arguing for "Chopra's god". If there is a god, I just wish he'd make it known. And I know you'll say he does, but you must admit that if he does, he only does so in mysterious and debatable ways that do not offer proof.

    Anyways, I did enjoy this post. I actually like listening to Deepak Chopra in debates quite a bit. I think he's very smart. I also think he knows what he's doing by using the term "god" to broaden his audience and influence.

  4. I had heard of him before but I hadn't actually read or listened to any of his material until this morning. He seems bright and I thought it was a very interesting piece.

    And I should have realized you were talking about a personal God when you said that He's not necessary. I don't know one way or the other but I can give you that and agree that a strong case can be made against whether or not a personal God is necessary. I'm still under the opinion that if a "God" exists then there is a good chance that it is a personal one. But of course thats just my opinion and speaks nothing of whether or not He is necessary.
    I'm also under the opinion that "personal God" doesn't have to mean he literally interferes with day to day events. Just that he took an interest in us, is responsible for our existence, and made a way for us to find salvation, because if God does exist and is personal I think He would be more concerned with our spirtual well-being.

    PS I liked your post today on WLC I thought the same thing you did with his Ontological argument and then to a degree with the Moral and Cosmological arguments. I think morality and cosmology can make a decent case for the existence of a "god" but I've never really liked the way WLC presents it. But I've never read Reasonable Faith, just watched a couple of his debates and read follow-ups and reviews on them.

  5. Thanks man... and thanks for the follow up. I hear ya, I would like to think there's a personal god that created us, is interested in us, and wants us to join him in heaven. I just don't see anything to justify the idea other than wishful thinking.