‘INTELLIGENCE OR CHAOS’
The Fallacy of Atheism
A book by Hari Krishna Das (Henk Keilman)
The mystery of existence
“The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible at all” Albert Einstein
Unimaginably large numbers!
When I look out of the window of my study to the world outside, I see the world as we know it. I see trees, gardens and buildings in bright sunlight, except for the shadow of the occasional cloud passing overhead. Around me, life is taking its course. Nothing remarkable, as you might say; everything is just as we know it. However, behind this everyday reality is a universe of an almost unimaginable size and complexity.
We can forget this universe so easily in our daily routine of work, grocery shopping and enjoying our free time, but it is nevertheless always present, just behind that blue or cloudy sky, and it is full of truly astonishing phenomena. Take the phenomenon of light for example, which makes all life on this planet possible. It is only because of light that we can actually see anything of the world around us, yet rarely do we consider that this light has just made a huge cosmic journey simply to get here. Emanating from what we call the sun, a relatively small star known as a ‘yellow dwarf’ in astronomer’s jargon, the light that reaches our planet earth has traveled 150 million kilometers at a speed of about 300,000 kilometers per second taking roughly just 8 minutes to complete the journey.
The sun may be small compared to other stars, but the force that she produces is still unimaginably powerful. Every second our star produces an amount of energy that equals the explosion of 1 trillion hydrogen bombs of 1 megaton. In this same second, the sun produces enough energy to keep the entire world economy going for 500,000 years based on our current energy usage. Due to the enormous amounts of energy being produced and the speed at which it travels, we can feel the influence of the sun almost immediately despite her distance from earth. On a hot summer’s day, her heat can be unbearable and we are grateful just to find a spot in the shade.
However, the sun is only a glowing pin-head compared to the total size of the universe. To be really impressed by the cosmos, we have to wait until the sun disappears behind the horizon and darkness sets in. After sunset, the true scale of the universe becomes more apparent as numerous stars, star systems and other celestial bodies appear in the night sky. For those of us not living in towns and cities and not hindered by light pollution the night sky would be filled with thousands of stars. Nonetheless, no matter how impressive a view, we would only be witnessing a tiny part of the entire universe, a fraction of a fraction of an immeasurably large space.
Our solar system with its 8 planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
For those who really want to understand the universe we have to enter the domain of extremely large numbers. The distances within our own solar system are already enormous. Earth is part of a collection of nine planets, including the lonely outer dwarf planet Pluto. The distance from the sun to Pluto is, on average, 5 billion kilometers. If we were to travel by spaceship at the impressive speed of 60,000 kilometers per hour, then we would need to travel for 10 years to cover this distance. But if we zoom out further, then our solar system disappears into nothing. Our collection of planets is a minuscule part of a much larger entity; a galaxy called the Milky Way. The distance from one side of this system to the other side is 100,000 light years. One light year is the distance that light travels in one year at the speed of 300.000 km per second, or 9.4 trillion (9,400,000,000,000) kilometers. If we continued to travel in the spaceship that took us to Pluto at the same speed, it would take us 1.8 billion years to travel from one side of the Milky Way to the other.
Nevertheless, we would still be safely within our own star system. However, if we ventured to travel to our next nearest major star system, the Andromeda galaxy, then we would have to cover a distance of 2.4 million light years. If we continued to travel at this same speed, it would take us no less than 43.2 billion years! These distances are simply beyond human comprehension. We can hardly pronounce such numbers, let alone imagine them. Who does not, from time to time, look up to the stars in the sky and wonder with slight apprehension where it all ends?
The Andromeda star system is located at a distance of 2,4 million lightyears from our solar system.
As large as the universe is, however, so the inhabitants of this planet appear to be insignificant and small, and I am not just referring to our size. One only has to watch CNN to be faced with the crude facts; a civil war raging in one part of the world, some bomb attacks in another part, which is pretty much a daily menu of news facts. Of course, we also invent medication, we build sea walls and dams to protect millions from drowning and we create institutes that advance prosperity and social justice. Art, culture and science are also expressions of human activities, aimed at positive human development. However, looking at our own history, we mostly seem to be specialised in warfare and fighting each other. According to a New York Times article published on July 6 2003, over the past 3,400 years humans have been entirely at peace for just 268 years, or just 8% of recorded history. That means there were wars going on for 3.132 years somewhere on the planet. These wars have claimed between 150 million to 1 billion casualties. That’s not a very good statistic, and it says a lot about the human condition. The relative peace of the past 65 years is mainly due to the existence of nuclear weapons, which make it impossible for us to have large scale wars. While most wars, in hindsight and almost without exception, seem to be useless, a nuclear war is useless in advance. The so-called MAD doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction is an insurmountable obstacle to any potential aggressor based on even the most primitive calculations.
Nevertheless, smaller wars and battles continue as humans fight a complicated battle in their struggle for survival against real or alleged enemies and threats. This battle is fought with intensive emotions and is literally of vital importance to each individual. But placed into perspective, these great and small human activities take place against the backdrop of nature and the infinite universe. Only one hundred kilometers of atmosphere separate us from the unreal reality of this immeasurable, unimaginable universe. These one hundred kilometers above our earth are the boundaries of the tiny bubble in which earthly existence takes place. This tiny bubble, earth and its atmosphere, floats in an immeasurable ocean of cosmic energies of outright extra-terrestrial proportions.
The difference between the immeasurable universe and human worries is surreal. It is a remarkable contrast; the cold, uninterested magnitude of the universe set against the intense emotions and awareness of our minuscule existence, occurring simultaneously and of course, both equally real. But, what is ‘real’? Why does reality exist? Just like everyone looks at the stars now and then and wonders about the vastness of the universe, everyone will sooner or later also wonder why we exist and why everything around us exists. Sometimes reality seems unreal, intangible and even dreamlike whilst at other times reality feels like a strong and tangible presence. What is most remarkable is that reality appears to be inflexible and it does not seem to be interested in us or our well-being. Both the world and the universe just exist, distant and indifferent; at least so it seems. In the words of Richard Dawkins:
“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
This causes humans many problems. We wonder, why is there something instead of just nothing? Why does reality exist the way it does? Why is reality at every level so immensely complicated? And why is reality permeated with undesirable things such as old age, disease and death and other types of suffering. Is there an explanation other then the one provided by Dawkins above, or is that it.
These questions lay the foundation for this book. They are the starting-point towards the question that defines the mystery of existence and that is the most important question that humans can ask themselves: Does God exist or not? Does existence – small or gigantic – spring from an unconscious and unintelligent chaos, or is it created by awareness and intelligence and does it have a purpose and a design? The answer to these questions provides an insight into the role and position of humans in the universe. Do our lives have meaning or is our existence toally lacking any purpose? Do humans exist with an intention, or do we just float around in the cosmos without ever achieving anything? Or, as the famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell put it so strikingly: “Man is an unfortunate accident, a sideshow in the material universe – an odd accident in a forgotten corner.”
Ultimately, we are of course all interested, out of normal self interest, in our own position and perspective in life. At the deepest level, this perspective is completely determined by the answer to the question of whether God exists or not.
Thanks to: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA
The Andromeda system is situated at an impressive distance of 2.4 million light-years away from us. This distance is nothing compared to the distance to NGC 1300, a spiral-shaped star system that is situated at a distance of 61 million light-years away from us in the Eridanus constellation. The star system has a cross- section of about 110,000 light-years; just slightly bigger than our own Milky Way.
Philosophical analyses has shown that this question, is the determining factor for the way we view reality and the universe. All philosophies can, in the end, be divided into two fundamental categories. The first category is atheistic in its core and states that the origin and the functioning of reality is based on chaos and coincidence. The second category is theistic in its core and regards the universe as an organic reality that was created and is managed by intelligence. Other philosophies that are essentially agnostic – and therefore do not explicitly state whether God exists or not – are often considered to be atheistic. In many cases, they will say that the intelligent coordination of the universe is an improbability. Therefore, they implicitly – and based on elimination – have a preference for chaos and coincidence as the most probable explanation for the origin of the universe.
Of course, within each of these categories there is a huge diversity of philosophies with many differences in nuance. Nonetheless, the dividing line is striking and this has an all-determining effect on all aspects of a philosophy, such as the theory of knowledge (epistemology), the theory on the nature of being (ontology), theories concerning moral values and meaning (ethics) and, in the end, the description or perception of our physical and scientific reality (physics and metaphysics). Indeed, social and political ideologies are also largely defined by this split. Denying or confirming the existence of God therefore leads to opposite philosophies and completely opposite answers as far as the origin and meaning of existence is concerned. Do our lives have a deeper meaning, or are our lives meaningless; a random evolutionary accident? Is man just a product of matter, or is there another type of energy that defines our consciousness and our individuality? Is death the absolute end of our lives, or do our lives continue beyond the boundaries of death? Is there a final heavenly (or hellish) destination past earthly existence, or is our short earthly existence the beginning, middle and end of the story? Theistic or atheistic philosophies will answer these questions in totally opposite ways leading to very different world perspectives which strongly affect everything we think, say and do. Even scientific disciplines such as physics and cosmology are strongly influenced, both directly and indirectly, by the dividing line between atheism and theism. As an interesting side note, it is precisely these sciences, combined with mathematics, that contain the initial answers to the question of whether the universe is governed by chaos or intelligence and thus, whether God exists or not. Given the impact this question has on our life, individually and in society, this really is the most important question that humans can ask themselves.
The images of this rich set of star systems are made by La Silla Observatory of the ESO in Chile. The thousands of star systems that are situated in this small area of the firmament provide us with a look into the distant past of the universe and makes us realise again how enormously large the cosmos is. Just underneath the bright stars in the centre of this image there is a group of star systems called Abell 226. The Abell group is situated at a distance of some billions of light-years away from us. Behind these objects there are even more star systems, they are less bright though, but still at even greater distances of about 9 up to 10 billion light-years. The light we see today coming from these systems has therefore traveled for 9 up to 10 billion years in order to reach us. This also means that we are looking back in time at a universe that existed 10 billion years ago.
This book attempts to answer this question, not by serving dogmas, but by critical analyses, based on philosophical and scientific research. This book compares the scientific and philosophical arguments in favour of the existence of God or against the existence of God and puts atheism against theism, chaos against design. It does this by focusing on some important changes in scientific thought, especially in the area of physics and cosmology where new and completely revolutionary discoveries have been made. These discoveries and insights reveal a universe that is infinitely complex, infinitely organized and infinitely mysterious. The level of organized complexity is so huge that this can only be explained logically by the presence of an all-pervading intelligence and an omnipresent awareness. Such an all-pervading intelligence can be called by any name and each label can be granted to it. God, of course, is the most obvious name: all-pervading intelligence and omnipresent awareness are qualifications that can only be attributed to God. The problem however is that the term God is burdened with a controversial history, created by humans. These are all controversies that, almost without exception, stem from ignorance, sectarianism, fanaticism or a corrupted desire for power. The intention of this book is to demonstrate, based on objective and scientific foundations, that intelligence and consciousness are the driving forces behind the universe, regardless of the burdened history of what that implies. This burdened history is what it is, but it does not alter the reality of these new scientific insights and the philosophical consequences of these insights. Where science directed humanity towards materialism and atheism over the past 200 years, we now see a way of thinking in the opposite direction. This direction is of a spiritual nature and implies a scientific rehabilitation of God. The facts that science has revealed over the past decades confirm that a universe without God is simply untenable, despite desperate and sometimes exotic attempts to do so. If we consider all the arguments, there can only be one logical conclusion: the universe is governed by intelligence and consciousness.
Whether God exists
This, therefore, is the central theme of the book, as the (sub)title indicates: ‘Intelligence or chaos: the misconception of atheism.’ This book discusses the scientific and philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God, atheism versus theism, and in scientific terms, intelligence and design versus chaos and coincidence. There will be few people who do not know the term ‘God’, but on the other hand it is a concept with a wide range of interpretations. Therefore, it is important and necessary to define and describe the concept of God. With respect to this, I do not intend to get caught up in analyses and definitions that are too technical, but I intend to focus on the general, common meaning of the concept God. This meaning is mostly associated with the manner in which the nature and the being of God is described. For instance, is he personal or impersonal; is he one with his creation and the universe or is he transcendental and outside of his creation? Is he personally involved with the universe or is he in control at a distance? What are his qualities and attributes? There are mainly two visions regarding the being and the nature of God, monotheism and monism.
Within these categories are several schools of thought with important nuances and differences, but this book will primarily deal with the core concepts. Monotheism states that one divine Supreme Being exists that has personal, transcendent characteristics. Monotheism also states that the world— the universe— is an emanation and creation of God. According to this vision, both God and his emanations are eternal energies. The Christian doctrine deviates somewhat from this view, since creation is not considered to be an emanation, but as something that was created by God out of nothing. This is called ‘creatio ex nihilo’ by Christian theologians. Here, but also in other aspects, there are nuanced differences between the various monotheistic traditions. What the different monotheistic schools do agree on is the absolute unity of God, which is at its core both personal and transcendental. Within this unity there is, however, a multitude of diversity: first of all, between God and His energies, and accordingly, between His energies mutually. This principle is the essence of monotheism.
In Christianity the unity of God is not entirely without controversy; the doctrine of the Trinity states that God is really three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and not one person. Effectively, and implicitly most Christian theologians see God as fundamentally One, yet simultaneously many, or three in this instance. Despite this nuance, Christianity is generally accepted as a monotheistic religion. Quoting the words of Jesus in John 5.44: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” Jesus was clearly of the opinion, as was official Jewish doctrine at the time, that God is one.
Richard Dawkins during the launch of his campaign in 2008, where London buses were decorated with atheist slogans.
Monism also states that there is one divine Supreme Being. The difference is, however, that this Supreme Being is impersonal by nature. The monotheistic God is often associated with an impersonal, all-embracing, undifferentiated, and infinite state of pure energy, made of pure and impersonal consciousness. According to monism, it is only this state of absolute unity that is real and the universe, with its diversity and multitude, is just an illusionary reflection of this divine energy.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered to be monotheistic religions. However, despite many misconceptions, Hinduism is also, at its core and by origin, a monotheistic doctrine. The philosophical core of Hinduism is mainly founded on the Vedanta philosophy, which is of a monotheistic nature. On the other hand, Buddhism and certain movements within the Vedanta school, such as Advaita Vedanta, are monistic by nature. The famous Dutch philosopher Spinoza (1632 – 1677) was also a monist who saw the world as the expression of an underlying, all-embracing and impersonal reality. Spinoza identified this underlying reality with God. The doctrine of Spinoza was an important influence on the thinking of Albert Einstein. Einstein believed in Spinoza’s image of God: ‘… a God that revealed Himself in the systematic harmony of the universe’. He did not believe in a God that interfered with the fate and the actions of man.
The two main movements, monotheism and monism have numerous variants such as pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, and deism. The first, pantheism is a variant to monism. According to pantheism, God only manifests Himself in the universe and does not differ from the universe in every respect. Deism and panentheism are sub-divisions of monotheism. Deism is a movement that has been popular amongst Western scientists and emerged as a result the scientific revolution in the 17th century followed by the Enlightenment in Europe and the United States during the 18th century. Deism is a form of monotheism, with the distinction being that the deistic God does not interfere directly in the world, in human affairs and nature. The latter is, according to deism, governed by the laws of nature, which were ultimately created by God. Panentheism is a concept that is perhaps not quite so familiar. It means that God is transcendent and above creation and, at the same time, He is immanent and manifests Himself in creation. Effectively, it is not really different from monotheism, which also acknowledges the simultaneous transcendence and immanence of God. Polytheism, the believe in many gods and goddesses, is sometimes a disguised form of monotheism. The pantheon of gods are effectively demi-gods and part of a divine hierarchy. For instance in Hinduism demi-gods are charged with ruling and managing the universe on behalf of, and in the service of the supreme God. Other traditions such as the polytheism found in ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome are truly polytheistic, whereby the different gods and goddesses are considered to be separate entities each with their own individual powers.
In the following treatment of theism and atheism, I primarily refer to the two main groups of theistic philosophies, which are monotheism and monism. For the sake of convenience, I indicate both traditions in this book as theistic. In later chapters, the differences between these two traditions will be explained further.
In religions and theistic philosophies, in both monotheistic and monistic variants, God is defined as the Supreme Being, almighty, all-knowing, omnipresent, eternal and infinite: the creator and maintainer of the universe and of all life in the universe. Furthermore, God is described as loving and merciful. A theistic world view assumes that such a being, in whatever shape or form, exists. Moreover, this implies that the universe is an organic unity, governed from an intelligent and conscious centre.
The four propositions of atheism
The atheistic world view denies the existence of such a Supreme Being and denies that the universe is an organic unity governed by an intelligent centre. Apart from admitting that there are some basic, blind laws of nature, atheism claims that the universe consists of an infinite number of material particles that reside in an infinite and empty space. Since the particles are fundamentally separated by space, they are independent and therefore on a large scale governed by coincidence and chaos. Atheism also denies the existence of another reality, apart from or next to the material reality. One of the most leading advocates of this worldview is, without question, the ethologist and biologist Richard Dawkins. He even placed atheistic advertisements on London city buses. In his book ‘The God Delusion’ he defines atheism as follows:
“An atheist in this sense of philosophical naturalist is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe, no soul that outlasts the body and no miracles – except in the sense of natural phenomena that we don’t yet understand. If there is something that appears to lie beyond the natural world as it is now imperfectly understood, we hope eventually to understand it and embrace it within the natural.“
Another atheistic thinker Dawkins quotes is Julian Baggini. He explains atheism in his book ‘Atheism, A Very Short Introduction’ as follows:
“What most atheists do believe is that although there is only one kind of stuff in the universe and it is physical, out of this stuff come minds, beauty, emotions, moral values – in short the full gamut of phenomena that gives richness to human life.”
Based on these definitions, but also based on the definitions of other atheistic thinkers, atheism is founded on four propositions or basic assumptions:
- The universe consists of material particles that exist independent of each other and that move independent of each other within the infinite void. The total of the movements and interactions of these particles is governed by coincidence and chaos, combined with a number of simple and blind laws of nature. This is also called ‘pluralism’.
- There is no central intelligent coordination within the universe and the universe is not an organic unity. There exists nothing apart from or outside the perceptible, physical material reality or the world of matter.
Proposition 1 and 2 together are also called ‘materialism’.
3. Even if there were to be a beginning of the universe, the origin of the universe has to be ultimately simple. God is by definition a complex being and, therefore, He cannot be the ultimate cause. The existence of a complex being such as God would demand that He would have been created by something else.
4. The universe is imperfect from a human perspective. That imperfection manifests itself most clearly in the presence of useless suffering that each living creature is faced with. This contradicts and undermines the position of God as almighty and merciful.
The first two propositions together are called ‘materialism’; it holds the view that matter is the only real substance in the universe. In this view, it is also emphasized that matter may be one substance, but that this substance is split up into innumerable particles. These particles are separated from each other by empty space. Materialism states that this combination of material particles and empty space is eternal and that there is a no cause for this.
The third proposition makes an exception to this, since it does state that there is a possible cause of the universe. This proposition claims that, should the universe have a cause at all, then this cause must ultimately be simple. This proposition is very relevant since modern cosmology assumes that the universe did have a beginning and has not always been there, nor will it always be here.
The fourth proposition is the most important one, since in the end most atheistic arguments can be reduced to this, or are indirectly derived from this. Consciously or unconsciously, atheists refer to the issue of the imperfect universe and the suffering in the world as the most probable reason why God could not exist. In the following chapters, the above-mentioned four propositions will be discussed in detail and refuted one by one relying on scientific and logical arguments.
Quotation of Einstein, cited by Fred Hoyle in ‘The Intelligent Universe’ Richard Dawkins
Bertrand Russell “Religion and Science (Oxford University Press, 1961)
Richard Dawkins in the “God delusion” page 35
Richard Dawkins in the “God delusion” page 34
To be continued