The main problem with religion in this country, especially the version peddled by the Christian Right - is the lack of temperance and the prevalence of "god talk". They forget that the mere existence of the noun does not mean there is any existent behind it - or (even assuming there is) that it is in any way understandable by a finite human mind.The tendency to posit a superior, supernatural being to account for physical existence is nearly universal in every human culture. Indeed, every major sacred book - whether Bible or Talmud, or Koran, attributes a divine origin to the universe.
The problem inheres in taking this literally, and then extrapolating to an entity 'God' - that allegedly is involved in the cosmos.On a more Materialist level, of course, the entity isn't required. According to the energy-time uncertainty relations, a quantum fluctuation can provide an immense quantity of energy if the corresponding time in which it occurs is exceedingly small.
This means the universe could have conceivably brought itself into existence by a (random) quantum fluctuation. This process, called "quantum bootstrapping" is now the basic answer provided by physics in regard to "what came before" the Big Bang.
I have been asked after some lectures I've given: "Well, be that as it may, where's the harm in at least acknowledging the possibility of a divine or supernatural origin for the Big Bang - admitting that while the detailed evidence may not be available, the possibility cannot be dismissed?"
This is a fair question, but misses the point. As a limited human enterprise, in terms of funds and resources, science is compelled to make judicious (and painful!) selections of problems to investigate. Indeed, the problems posed by the natural world often tax the resources of science beyond its capability to extract practical solutions. Now, add to this the (pseudo-) problems of a realm that no one can be certain exists, and it becomes clear why scientists are averse to venturing beyond their domains. At least this is the attitude of most natural scientists, competing for scarce funding.
At another level, science excludes all hypotheses which are judged impractical in terms of confirmation, or empirical test. God is such a hypothesis. What determines whether a hypothesis belongs in the excluded category? For one thing, whether the proposed entity can be defined in terms recognizable by science. For scientists, definitions are "operational" - which means they are framed in terms of other (familiar) scientific concepts: energy, fields, mass, volume or whatever.
However, if a concept falls within the purview of Godel's Incompleteness theorems, then it isn't addressable by science. 'God' is such a concept, since there aren't enough testable axioms or tenets to prove it - or even to identify the necessary criteria for adequacy of operation (which these days more often than not passes for what we call "proof"). Thus, "deity" is unprovable by any system of axioms that can be conjured up by the finite human brain or collection of brains.
Put another way, the typical human brain can make 'x' statements about "God" - but these will always be at least (N- x) short of encapsulating the concept in fullness and adequacy. The gap between the statements that can be given and must be given is usually referred to as the "undecidable propositions".
Now, some aver or say that just as they may have a "faith" in deity or "God", I have "faith" the Sun will rise each morning. This is not quite the same thing. In my case it isn't so much any "faith" (in terms of the definition or acceptance of sights unseen) but rather pre-supposition predicated on a host of predictable past behaviors! This is always the case when when experience repeatedly validates that the probability of controversion of the underlying physical laws is null.
For example, I can “pre-suppose” that each and every time I get up in the morning I will not suddenly levitate upwards, with the law of gravity demolished. I can pre-suppose, based on my years and years of observed experience, a law of gravity exists - even if I may never have seen it crafted verbally or demonstrated scientifically. Similarly, I can “pre-suppose” that the Sun will rise every morning, and set each evening, albeit not at the same time. But the rising and setting themselves are indicative of larger dynamical laws to do with the Earth’s rotation.
In addition, I can “pre-suppose” that as I’m writing this, my computer keyboard will not suddenly de-constitute into individual atoms, molecules. One may not “know” the exact laws that apply (in the case for atomic physics) but one’s recurring experience validates it to high confidence levels.Even if a scientific or research hypothesis may include some open or meta-statements (evidently leaving the door open for undecidable propositions) there are nevertheless empirical checks and tests that can close the system parameters.
Consider this relatively simple example from celestial mechanics:
the magnitude h, of the angular momentum vector is:
h = r x r’ = r x (dr/ dt) =
(y z’ - z y’)
(z x’ - x z’) = (C1 C2 C3)
(xy' - yz')
so (r x r’) = (C1/ h, C2/ h, C3/h)
and inserting variables one finds:
C1/ h = sin U sin (i)
C2/ h = - cos U sin (i)
C3/h = cos(i)
where U is the longitude of the ascending node, and (i) is the inclination of orbit
Now since (i) is known (23.5 deg) and therefore cos(i) can be determined, then sin(i) can be as well.
Also h can be determined, since: h = C3 / cos(i) = (GMm a (1 – e^2)^1/2
where all the constants are known (a = semi-major axis of orbit, e = eccentricity of orbit)
We also know: h = (C1^ 2 + C2^2 + C3^2)^1/2 = [C^2]^ 1/2
and we can take:
(C1/ h)/ (C2/ h) = sin U sin(i)/ [- cosU sin(i)]or C1/ C2 = - tan U
We basically already know, from the above (and using some basic algebra), that:
k (const.) = (C1^2 + C2^2)^1/2
Also, U = W - w, where W can be obtained from a table based on observations, and w can be obtained using a Fourier expansion of the mean anomaly M, e.g.
w = M + (2e – e^3/ 4) sin M + 5 e^^2/4 sin 2M + ... etc.
Once U is known, C1 and C2 and C3 are known, and there are no circles or open ends
Similar limit provisions and closed operational explication do not apply to "G-O-D". At another level, it is of interest to explore how deity varies as a concept between religions. This discloses there can't be one uniform human perception for the concept. To fix ideas, the typical western Christian regards his or her deity as a personal God, while the typical Hindu regards his or her deity (Brahmin) as impersonal.
Even if all other things are equal, how can there be such a vast gap in human perceptions? The fact of such a perceptual chasm must mean either: a) God does not exist - at least as specified by either group, or b) God exists, but no human mind is capable of grasping even the most elemental conception accurately.
Philosopher Joseph Campbell once observed:
"God" is an ambiguous word in our language because it appears to refer to something that is known. But the transcendent is unknowable and unknown. God is transcendent, finally, of anything like the name of "God". God is beyond names and forms.
Thus, it seems the more one uses the term "God" the less he or she is really committed to it, or respects the underlying concept. The more the noun is bandied about, in other words, the less
power is derived from it, and the less it impresses one's fellows.
Based on Campbell’s explication that the noun G-O-D omits vastly more than it embodies, it seems to make sense that the implicit use of god-concepts (as opposed to asserted absolutes), reinforces a judicious attitude of cautious forbearance.
The implicit relativism acts as a restraint, hopefully backing the believer away from a militant stance of absolutism. Ideally, this should dispose him or her to be more tolerant: tolerant toward unbelievers, and tolerant toward those of different religions. Far from conceding to evil, this necessary acceptance of relativity offers an escape from evil. It is an admission of intellectual humility. An admission that human brains are too limited in capacity and function to access the fundamental answers to life - or to have an exclusive grasp of the "one, true God", somehow denied to all those of other faiths.
The use of the term god-concept also recognizes implicitly (by acknowledgment of a finite intelligence confronting an assumed "infinite" entity) that the question of the existence of God is certainly unanswerable. (If it were not, then any believer ought to be able to set out the necessary and sufficient conditions for his God to exist.)
In this sense, it is important to be able to distinguish the nearly universal allegiance to god-concepts from the separate issue of the factual existence of a deity. In other words, the widespread use and appeal of god-concepts does not necessarily mean that there is a genuine correspondent in reality, supernatural or otherwise. Acknowledging the god-concepts at the center of all God-talk instead tempers the absolutist presumption that merely saying a word establishes the underlying (assumed) reality.