Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Case for God

Does God exist ?

A very loaded question. People have very strong opinions on this subject, and they will not like you for being lectured. However, I will take this risk and write on this topic today. Please treat me kindly.

Till very recently, my position on the question of God's existence could be termed "nihilistic". A nihilist is a person who doesn't care. God doesn't exist ? Okay. What matters is that there is a reason behind everything. And life and nature are so lovely, we don't have to care about God. God exists ? Cool. But then, he has some explanation to do.

I have been quite happy with my position. I was raised in a family which encouraged me to question everything and have a rationalistic and scientific view of life. We were not religious, and we were definitely not into religious custom.

I was never an atheist - a person who strongly believes that God doesn't exist. To prove that something doesn't exist, you should first know what it is. The concept of God seemed so unimportant to me that I didn't want to spend time disproving all its attributes.

I did agree with several atheistic points : such as that God doesn't have anything to do with the origin of man (I go with the theory of evolution), the creation of earth and the elements (I go with the big bang theory) etc. In general, I have suspected (and do suspect now) God as a hypothetical being which is created as a ready-made answer for all the questions by lazy people who don't want to think. For this reason, I have been hostile to the idea of God, even though I wouldn't want to call myself an atheist.

There were times in my life, when I experimented with alternate positions.

In my childhood, I once actively engaged myself with believing in God : God is this guy who is playing a game with you, something like blindman's buff. It was my task to discover who it was, by tricking him to have a conversation with me. For example, I did something nice, and checked what God gives me in return. It was a nice game, but I was soon tired of this.

Then , sometime in my adolescence, I have been fascinated by Mathematics. I thought that if God exists, this should be proven. Not by some strange or weird thing that happens occasionally, such as you magically getting saved from an accidant (I was, once), or a statue starting drinking milk (it did). No, God should be proved as a theorem. Not hypothesized as an exception. I was amazed to learn that there were several branches of philosophy which specialize in this. But they all seemed very esoteric and insipid, so I decided to look into them when I get old.

But there was one strand of philosophy which fascinated me. It was called logicism, that everything comes down to logic. This is the idea of Leibniz, and at that time I was a big fan of Leibniz as I was starting to learn calculus. I called myself a logicist, to the utter incomprehension of my friends. They thought I was just showing off (which was partly true). The thing with logicism is that if everything gets down to logic, then God is logic.

But this quaint world was shattered during my engineering days, when I learned Godel's incompleteness theorem. Damn, logicism was not cool anymore.

If God exists, God cannot be logic. It should be something else. What is it ?

Well, I decided I don't care. I became a nihilist. And started quoting Nietzsche, again annoying my friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized there exists something which can be called God.

I will try to explain with a few examples.

1) You are watching a soccer match on television. You are cheering for your team, "Come on guys, you can do it.. I know you can make the goal. Yes, move on like that".. Deep down in your mind, you are thinking that these whispers of yours are being heard by the players and motivating them. But, let's take an objective viewpoint and check if these thoughts of yours make any difference to the performance of the team. There is no known law in physics which can prove this for you.

2) You hear that a family member of a close friend of yours is in hospital over a severe illness. You tell your friend, "Don't worry my friend. Everything will be alright. She will survive." Your friend smiles a little on hearing your words. How can your thoughts make any difference to the chances of survival of a remote patient ? There is nothing in physics that can prove this.

3) The person that you love deeply is going to live faraway. You don't know whether she will lead a happy life, or if she finds herself in the midst of troubles. You wish deep inside you that she is happy, and you believe that it is true. How can your love make someone else happy at another location, if you are not even communicating it ?

What I am trying to argue is that there are several things such as hope, love and wishes which are not quite logical. They cannot be proved by science (atleast, they are not yet proven). But we believe in them anyways. This is what I say is God.

When you look objectively at the meaning of God, it has always been this. It is a sincere wish of a human for the wellbeing of another human. This is called hope. In all our culture, God was a synonym for this hope.

I wish upon Athena to look kindly upon me when I debate with someone. I wish upon Neptune to let my ship pass peacefully through his seas. I wish upon Lakshmi to bless you with wealth in your endeavour. And so on.. When you leave from my place, I say good-bye - a shortening of "god be with you".

If you understand God as hope, I will vouch for you that God exists. It you understand God as love, I will vouch for you that it is true.

Let me elaborate. I suspect that there is a hidden ether which connects all human minds (and even plants and animals) and their wishes. When you wish for something deeply for someone, this wish propagates through this ether and reaches the other person. It will make it nicer for that person by modifying the parameters of the physics around. This concept is not yet discovered in science, but I am sure that it is true. We will discover it one day, as we all discover it every day in our lives.


Anonymous said...

Hi Babu,
Long time no speak. Liked this blog post of makes sense. Hope is the one thing that humans have that carries them forward through life (and love too). I remember when Feynman lost his first wife, he wrote something like -" If an alien species who have the gift of immortality ...ever visits Earth and sees this mortal species of beings, who don't know when they are going to die, with such finite lifespans, the alien will wonder why humans strive so much since there is death at the end of it. It will wonder how humans haven't gone into some psychological disorder with this conundrum of unknown lifespan."
The answer is that we hope, and have faith, in someone, something or ourselves. That feeling (which you call God) and love keeps us going froward.
How is life going otherwise? When are you coming to India next?


Ajayprabhu said...

Its nice post..I think its not just God there are many things in nature which our sensees have not been able to comphrened..Man is finite but nature is infinite..How finite can understand infinite?

pari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pari said...

The idea in your blog is of Universal Consiciousness. Google this term to learn more.
We all are a manifestation of that boundless consiciousness called God.
I believe in butterfly effect as well. A thought, well wish in your mind can also bring some change somewhere. Normally we consider thoughts as not action. actually they are microscopic level action which can still have some effects.