Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is there an artificial God?

A littl while back, my brother blogged about dealing with his anger. He has a child with cancer, so he has cause to be angry, or does he? Really, the post is about what life is and how to deal with it, and ultimately, I guess, wisdom. Money quotes are:
I'm angry that the reality of my life doesn't match the fantasy that I was living out and expecting to continue.

and
Life is messy. Get over it. Give up the fantasy. Embrace the beautiful parts of reality. Love is real and beautiful. Love cannot be fantasy.

A friend of ours, Jim, wrote a comment to that post about how his belief in Christ helps him deal with life. I can't link directly to his comment, but you can find it in the comments to the post I linked to above. Money quote:

For me, my faith in Christ--symbolized here with the act of communion--is what I desparately need and what helps me live.
Both men are struggling with, yes, the meaning of life, and how to deal with the pain and disappointment that is such a part of life. Many people, including Jim, find at least part of the answer is religous belief and a spiritual life.

I recently read, The Salmon of Doubt. It is a collection of miscelanious stuff written by Douglas Adams, published after his death. There is one piece titled, "Is There an Artificial God." The note at the end says it is an extemporaneous speech given at Digital Biota. It is a rambling piece filled with half-formed arguments and ideas. There is one thread running through it that fascinates me. Adams talks about how we are used to this top-down idea of God. The first mover creates the universe than sits astride the pyramid. Many people these days do not believe this. It is also not an original idea that God might be made in humanity's image. What Adams points out is that our understanding of the physical and biological world is teaching us that order and complexity are derived from the bottom up. What we percieve as smoothly functioning, complex systems at one level, are often the aggregate of simple and messy systems at lower orders. What if God is an emergent phenomenon arising from human culture?

Clearly this is the thinking of someone who does not accept the idea of God as taught by the great world religions. A startling consequence of this line of thinking is that not believing in a creator God, or a supernatural personality does not neccessarily lead to theconclusion that God is unimportant or does not exist. God might be a vitally important phenomenon that emerges from human activity.

5 comments:

Cool Hand Luke said...

I'm taking a class at our church about science and faith. The first session was led by a member of the church who has a Phd in physics. His talk clearly didn't jive with the theory and thoughts you are talking about here. He views the underlying complexities of our natural world as bearing witness to God's creativity, ingenuity, and etc.

Anyway, he talked about some things like chaos theory and some quantum principles (the simple but messy systems underneath). I'm really just kind of rambling and not even attempting to make any kind of point other than I hardly ever think much about what our phsyical world can tell us about the supernatural and vice versa and then within the span of three days I started a class on the subject and then you posted something related to it. Odd coincidence.

Josh Gentry said...

"Synchronicity is a word coined by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung to describe the "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." "

From wikipedia.

AnnieBgood said...

I would really like to read that. It is interesting to find out how many different writers and sources talk about the top down and bottom up approaches. One of my favorite religious and Hindu scholars, Wendy Doniger, studies mostly myth and in one of her books "The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth" she criticizes the top down method which often looks at concepts such as sacrifice and a High God and pushes for a bottum up method. This method is used to study human universals such as sexual desire, the body, pain, death, parenting, and procreation as a way to study religion and "God" cross culturally. She prefers to use data to make an argument as opposed to theory.

Josh Gentry said...

Wow you sound like an academic ;-) Seriously, I'm glad your interested. If you follow the link in the post to "Is There An Artificial God" it is the Douglas Adams talk. I discovered as I was writing the post that the Biota people had posted it online.

Cool Hand Luke said...

Did our "baby" sister go and grow up on us?

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