An astronomy club friend, Richard (Dick) Haddad) presents a novel proof for the existence of God in “No Sign in the Sky: Mediations on the Problem of Evil,” a book that even an atheist can appreciate. It is well written, honest, and original. It also is reason based. Dick has this to say to readers who would argue that the question of God’s existence should be decided by faith alone: “As I said earlier, I would be very glad to have had the gift of faith. But for better or worse, I am one of those (and our name is legion) who find it difficult to accept as truth assertions which do not appear to be consistent with reason. . . . I believe it is likely (or at least possible) that logical reasoning can establish the existence or non-existence of God, and it seems to me that both the religious and the non-religious should welcome any attempt to do so, since each side . . . . should believe that the exercise of honest logic must necessarily prove its position. Such reasoning ought to begin at some basic and unarguable point, grounding itself in self-evident truth, and to proceed from there to a necessary conclusion.”
Great. I’m on board . . . . . However, the ensuing proof is hard. Despite its grounding in cosmology and the fact that I am an amateur astronomer, I realize I am not qualified to assess it. It has something to do with infinite versus finite time, and whether everything that could happen will happen in infinite time, and the fact that we do not see “Heat Death” (when the universe decays to just radiation), which is where the universe should be by now if time is infinite. Hmmm . . . I almost follow the argument. However, I suspect there is a flaw in it somewhere.
Here are the outlines of my own intuition as to why there may be a flaw: Let’s say for the sake of argument that time is infinite. If so, isn’t it strange that I am alive NOW!? Well, no. . . . it’s not strange. There is no other moment I could be experiencing. Perhaps time just is an illusion and in actuality everything exists at once, like an equation for the whole universe, or computer program. The only way a conscious entity within the program of the universe would be able to experience anything is going “forward” along the arrow of time. If so, it is no wonder that the part of the program that is “Ann” is experiencing “now” as 2014, just as the part of the program that is Benjamin Franklin experienced now as 1706 to 1790. And no part of the program is going to be able to experience “Heat Death” (when the universe turn to all radiation).
So to summarize, “No Sign in the Sky,” is a worthy exercise. I hope someone more qualified than me will assess Dick’s mediation. However, for myself, I no longer engage deeply with these sorts of arguments and here is why. As the example above illustrates, the only arguments for the existence of God that are not easily dismissed are extremely difficult to follow. So we know that whatever kind of God is being proved by them, it is not the kind of God who is trying very hard to show himself. No kind of God is trying hard to contact me. Like Dick, I “lack the gift of faith.” If God’s message is so important, why is it so hidden?*
Also the Gods that are proven through these exercises are always perfect, just, and consistent (a huge improvement over the gods recommended to me by actually existing religions), but this also means they can be safely ignored. Their perfection means that they are not needy for praise or demanding my adoration. They are not constantly changing their minds or their universe by intervening with tiny miracles. They are not doing much of anything other than giving “Good” rather than “Bad” their official seal of approval. (Of course they cannot approve “Bad” and still be perfect.)
But “Good” is already better than “Bad.” If “God” has nothing more to say to us other than the tautology that “Good is Good,” do we really need him?
Philosophical God (the God proved by philosophy), if he exists, is goodness itself and requires nothing more from me than to be good. To go farther than this we must turn to “Revelation.” Dick mentions revelation as a way to learn more about God, but to his credit, he does not pursue it. This may be because the gods of purported revelation are temperamental and even genocidal maniacs. They are self-contradictory in many ways and, as such, do not appeal to people who like logic (or just common sense). These almost certainly fictional characters do offer a few gems of wisdom mixed with the nonsense, but nothing so special that I can’t find it elsewhere.
Dick’s philosophical God wants us to balance the principles of 1) living in harmony with the universe and 2) surviving and prospering. Dick has described our moral predicament perfectly, drawing on the greatest thinkers (philosophers and scientists) who have ever lived (I am looking at this impressive bibliography).
It does give me pause when a secular philosopher says there may be something to that ontological proof for the existence of God. If the smartest people in the world ever do manage to prove a god who has something important to say, somebody please call me.
(The book “No Sign in the Sky” by Richard Y. Haddad (2003) published by World Association Publishers is available at Amazon.)
*In the “Afterthought” Dick admits this point (that the difficulty of proving God, even if it can be done, is somewhat troubling): “But now, having at last arrived at the conclusion of my long search, I find I have certain reservations, not about the validity of my reasoning nor the truth of my conclusions . . . but about the usefulness of all this to people in general . . . It has become plain to me that at almost every step of my proof a reader will require some familiarity with words that have depths beyond everyday connotations, and with concepts that will require some study to see clearly. People are unlikely to be acquainted with all the scraps of information from various disciplines that have been advanced during the course of my argument and it is my feeling now that to grasp the full weight of the logic, it is necessary to make specials studies. Not everyone is inclined or has the time to do that. . . . At the beginning of my search I more or less took for granted that if I presented a logical proof of the existence of God, I would be giving an answer sufficient for questions about the matter. I was mistaken.” The author concludes that the exercise was at least useful to him and perhaps will be to others.