a theory of God
some video offerings to a crucial human discussion
about science and religion
- by joel a. wendt -
- introduction to the videos -*
*since writing the below, I have chosen to begin to write a book, called The Art of God: an actual Theory of Everything. This work
Natural Science, as a discipline, on occasion produces
grandiose theories on what are best described as ultimate
Such theories are rooted to a degree on actual evidence, and the
evidence is then
thought through in order for a larger meaning to arise in the form
which then becomes the theory. In a
sense, a theory arises through the combination of many facts in the
face of larger questions. It is, however, the grandiose scope of
the larger questions that result in the nature of such theories.
For example, the Theory of Evolution is based on all
manner of facts (evidence), but suffers from one serious empirical
deficiency: we lack the capacity to actually go back in time and view
directly the events which the Theory supposes. Instead, we
interpret data (facts, evidence) we find in the present and construct
what we think it means using the faculties of the mind. The
belief among scientists, however, that they can have knowledge of the
ancient past to the degree the Theory suggests, is a kind of arrogant
vanity, not different in kind from the vanity of some religions and
their systems of belief on ultimate questions (e.g. the meaning of
life, the origin of life, the existence or not of the Divine).
Ultimate questions are in a way quite seductive, and a disciplined mind learns to be cautious when confronting them.
The Big Bang Theory is another such grandiose Theory. It is not a humble mind that believes it can describe with exactitude and precision some truly extraordinary events that the Theory alleges arose millions or billions of years ago. Only an arrogant mind would conceive that it can reach that far into the dim past and come to actual knowledge of what happened. Religions at least allege that God told them the Creation was true. Scientists invent their grandiose Theories themselves.
Yet, it is a very human and understandable impulse to want to know such fundamental truths. We just should keep in mind, that even with the Theory of God that is to be the subject of these videos, it is not a humble choice for an individual human being to assert they can come to such knowledge. If one is familiar with the philosophical necessities for having knowledge (epistemology), it is clear that human beings should accept that they have severe limits on their ability to come to have actual knowledge of such grandiose questions. Whether it is a religious conception, or a scientific conception, the reality is the same - we are going beyond that which lies directly to our own experience and observation (that is, beyond something which is actually empirical), and into a territory where almost any conjecture will work. The ability of the human mind to speculate and imagine is quite enormous, but there is a vast difference between our fantasy about ultimate questions and what we actually can know.
The Theory of Evolution is favored for its explanatory
ability - that is it seems to explain the origin of the various species
living beings, including human beings, in a fashion consistent with a
vast array of data, facts and evidence. There are, to date,
no competing theories (leaving aside creationism and intelligent design
with their obvious weaknesses) of the same majesty of explanatory power
as the Theory of Evolution.
The Theory of Evolution is also intensely popular among
many scientists, and among a lot of quite reasonable and thoughtful
people. People who doubt it are considered by this part of the popular mind
(that favors the Theory) to have something wrong with them.
Christopher Hitchens had this to say in his book: god is not Great : “Our principles are not faith.
We do not rely solely upon science and reason, but we distrust
anything that contradicts science or outrages reason.”
That standard is applied by Hitchens against the ideas of
namely through demanding
to be worthy of receiving attention in the Age of Science, cannot contradict science
and/or outrage our sense of reason. I find this a reasonable
criteria (to a degree), although it lacks a certain specificity that would make
it a bit more precise, and perhaps even elegant (to borrow a term from
Part of the problem with Hitchens here is that he sets
science up on a kind of mountain top, from which it is hard to
Science has a lot of data, facts and evidence, but the grand unifying theories
and, the whole
aspect of the knowledge business, even within the field of science, is
that one ought to be
able to challenge theories and hypotheticals. Such a challenge is
common to any real
scientific judgment, as anyone familiar with the true history of
science will know (c.f. Thomas Kuhn's The
There are different ways to challenge hypotheticals.
One is to point to different data, facts and evidence, which have not been included.
Another is to challenge the theory to see if it is actually a
workable theory (for example: is it testable?). A third way is to offer a counter-theory.
This is what this video work is then about: a gathering of
different data, facts, and evidence, to challenge a quite popular
of Evolution) which isn’t
really workable in its own terms (not testable), and to offer at the
same time an
alternative theory or explanation of the same area of interest (which
The Theory of Evolution seeks to explain the origin of
biological life, and as elaborated by other disciplines that rely on
it, such as evolutionary psychology, also explains the behavior of
human beings as can be observed in the modern world. The scope of
the related ideas is vast. Investigations into parallel
scientific questions, such as geology, are considered supportive.
This also includes work on human biology such as genetics and the
chemistry of the cell, as well as all manner of work on the brain
and the nature of consciousness.
The explanatory reach of the Theory of Evolution touches
all manner of other scientific disciplines, and the various sciences
cross-fertilize each other in profound ways. The total
edifice is huge, and were we to really see the interplay of ideas
carefully, we might begin to recognize that the whole is in fact a
house of cards (see Owen Barfield’s Worlds
Let me say a bit more about that, keeping in mind
Hitchens above where he states: “...we distrust anything that
contradicts science...”. Does
there actually exist such a edifice as this "science" that can be
violated with any real meaning?
Science is a large and still somewhat adolescent
It is no longer young, and many of its principle ideas were
established by the middle of the 19th Century, which is now over 150
years ago. It was out of that context that Darwin wrote his Origin of
the Species, and he fully expected that
he recognized within
this theory (natural selection etc.) would be resolved as the reach of
the various sciences increased. Gaps in his theory he expected to
be filled in by later work.
Similar realities exist in many of the different fields
of science, even such at one time seeming rock
solid places as physics and chemistry.
The 18th Century vision of Newton, that was still in place
in the mid-19th Century, was dislodged by Einstein at the beginning of
the 20th Century. His Theory of Relativity has since been
replaced by the problems of indeterminacy and quantum theory.
Newton’s idea that an atom was a thing, and that matter was
made up of very very small things (substances) has been replaced by the ideas of quantum theory such
that there is no there there anymore - matter, as a thing occupying space and time, has become lost to a view
that suggests that
...well just Google quantum theory
and you’ll start to get the idea
that “thingness”, as it were, has shifted from a concept in which there
was an actual physical object to one in which there is rather an
intersection of forces - such as “wave forms”.
Even the photon, the imagined “particle” of light, more
and more lacks any sense of concreteness, but rather (which is why
fundamentals in physics are “indeterminate”) only “there” if we
approach it from one direction, and only in movement (from one there to
another there) if we approach it from another. Worse, we
can’t do both at the same time (find “whatness" or “beingness" and
“velocity” or “whereness” at the same time with our instruments).
Spending centuries trying to find the fundamental “substance” of
the universe, we ended up with the ghost of a nothingness that some
physicists have had to go to Eastern religious thought in order to seek
any deeper meaning (c.f. Capra’s The Tao of
Physics, or Zukav’s The
Dancing Wu Li Masters).
The search for the reality of matter has overtime lost its original goal, and disappeared into
the strange world of mathematical
imagination and fantasy.
Probably not a bad place to be, if we can really understand what
it means that that “disappearance" happened.
In this place on YouTube then, we will try to agreeably
take the fundamentals of science, expand the
field of facts, data and evidence a little bit, and rather than
“explain” the larger ultimate questions with such as the Theory of
Evolution, substitute A Theory of God.
Keep in mind that what is offered is nothing
a unifying theory of everything,
the holy grail of science - no fact is to be left out, nor is the
wonder of human reason to be discarded either. The basic feeling-meaning that
Hitchens said above (“Our principles are not faith. We do not rely solely
upon science and reason, but we distrust anything that contradicts
science or outrages reason.”) is to be our
The central problem, house of cards wise, is hidden
assumptions. We will (to limit our
argumentative background) be referring to texts by Christopher Hitchens (god is not Great),
Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Sam Harris (The End of
Faith), as well as the works of Owen
Barfield. The first three share
certain assumptions, which if made visible (as stated ideas and
concepts) end up not being viable. The glue holding together the
cards of modern science (in the sense Hitchens wants to use that term)
are all assumptions. They are concepts and ideas that are
true, and for which there is no evidence; and, what is worse, these
concepts and ideas defy reason as well.
The history of science is filled with these assumptions,
which sometimes were actually recognized, and then forgotten because
they represented riddles that could not be solved. The
riddle then got replaced with an assumption, and the pursuit of
scientific truth climbed up on the cards leaning together (or held
together) by many such assumptions. You go far enough in that
direction - climbing a house of cards held together by assumptions,
then eventually the whole thing will collapse on itself.
Let me give an example: If we Google this term:
we come upon an interesting story (from Wikipedia):
"In the philosophy of naturalism, uniformitarianism assumes that
the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe
now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply
everywhere in the universe. It is frequently summarized as “the present
is the key to the past,” because it holds that all things continue as
they were from the beginning of the world.”.
the debate on this matter is no longer in the forefront of scientific
deliberations, it remains as an essential “assumption” (it can’t be
empirically observed or proven,
within science is much higher than people realize. As a
consequence, there is no bedrock and absolutely fixed and unchangeable science
that can be any standard against which to weigh competing theories, in
the way naive New Atheists argue. Hitchens view mentioned above
(and lets repeat it for a third time because this is a very important
point: “Our principles are not faith. We do not rely solely
upon science and reason, but we distrust anything that contradicts
science or outrages reason.”) doesn’t work
because there is no such thing as the science
he implies can be used as
a measure for contradiction.
That said, we are not however to contradict facts and
evidence obtained through scientific observation. These remain
valid. The problem comes when we interpret the totality of the
data in such a way that we construct the larger theoretical (and often
grandiose and ultimate) meaning.
takes place in the
mind, which is why Hitchens is correct when he insists we do not
abandon reason. Is, for example, The Theory of Evolution free
from the criticism of reason? It is not, irrespective of what
its apologists claim (Google Ron Brady’s Dogma
Let me end this with a quote from Owen Barfield’s Worlds
Apart, which is a book in dialog form
how much disagreement-like difference there are between various aspects of human knowledge (philologists, teachers of the history of theology
and ethics, physical scientists, school teachers, biologists,
linguistic philosophers and psychiatrists),
and how compartmentalized these disciplines are - they don’t and often
can’t talk to each other at all.
“Every kind of knowledge, including science, is valuable.
But all kinds of knowledge are not valuable in the same way, or
for the same reason. There are many different kinds of knowledge,
and one kind is the kind which we require to enable us to control our
material environment and make it serve our purposes. You can call
it knowledge of things if you like. But there is also another kind of
knowledge - knowledge about man and about the values which make him man
and the best way of preserving them; knowledge about his relationship
to God and God’s creatures. The mistake you make - the mistake
nearly everyone makes - is to assume that the first kind necessarily
includes the second.”
The result of this assumption (in cooperation with all
the others that will have to be faced), is that people often don’t talk
to each other, but rather past each other, never having a meeting of
minds in the first place. That fact is the biggest danger to the
current dialog and results from setting up Religion as something that
adequately be judged by the same processes which produce Science.
It is hoped that these videos will create a basis for some
genuine engagement rather than a lot of useless name calling, which is
why part of what is being produced here limits itself to being called:
A Theory of God. I am trying to meet the New Atheists
on the very ground with which they feel most familiar - the processes
and methods of natural science.
Other writings of mine, from some time ago, can be found here: The Idea of Mind - a Christian meditator considers the problem of consciousness, and here:
The Quiet Suffering of Nature, which examines certain threshold problems regarding our ideas of nature and its relationship to the Divine. Then more recently here: Does God Exist? a wizards point of view.