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

will consist of two parts.  The book and the related to the book videos.   To write to me about my work, here are two
of my e-mail addresses: hermit@tiac.net and joel232001@gmail.com

Natural Science, as a discipline, on occasion produces grandiose theories on what are best described as ultimate questions.  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 of 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 Religion, namely through demanding that religious ideas, 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 mathematics).

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 dislodge.   Science has a lot of data, facts and evidence, but the grand unifying theories remain hypotheticals; and, the whole ethical 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 progress of scientific judgment, as anyone familiar with the true history of science will know (c.f. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).

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 Theory (the Theory 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 is testable).

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 Apart).

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 undertaking.  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 those unsolved problems 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 less than 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 guiding light.

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 house of cards of modern science (in the sense Hitchens wants to use that term) are all assumptions.  They are concepts and ideas that are probably not 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: Uniformitarianism 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.”.

While 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, nor is it testable).   The number of these assumptions 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.  The construction of that theoretical 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 and Doubt).

Let me end this with a quote from Owen Barfield’s Worlds Apart, which is a book in dialog form about 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 can 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.

            link to YouTube Channel, Proof of God, on these videos (not active in the present)

list of videos