I’ve just been having fun on the Hubble website, which allowed me to journey to a black hole in the Andromeda Galaxy and even to fall into it. As I understand it, black holes are objects of such great density that their own gravity makes it impossible for anything, including light to escape from them. This means that unless they have captured some light emitting body, they cannot be seen on the visible spectrum although they show up on the X-ray and radio spectrums. Many astronomers think that there is a massive black hole at the centre of all galaxies.
Out sciences have obviously not fully understood these objects as yet, but they have made observations, invented the concept of a black hole and will continue to investigate, and perhaps improve, or even radically change their concept, as time goes on. That’s the way science works.
It is also the way my sort of religion works. I do not live in a different world from scientists; I live in the same world, with the same information about it as scientists. Indeed I am reasonably diligent in keeping up to date with the tiny proportion of scientific discovery that can be understood by the non- specialist. It’s just that I am part of a tradition that has invented different concepts from those of the scientists, but which is as prepared to have them tested out as they are.
The first set of facts to which this tradition attends, is the set of facts about human life. While accepting the basic story of evolutionary process described by Darwin and his successors, my tradition of thought is not wholly satisfied with this theory, because it does not give sufficient attention to the emergent phenomenon of human intelligence. While accepting that all life has some sort of intelligence, the creative capacity of human intelligence seems to me and my tradition to be discontinuous with even the greatest animal intelligences, and its effect on the earth and even the galaxy to be different in kind as well as quantity. The terrifying potential of such an intelligent creature for the preservation or destruction of life and its environment suggests that its existence should be the subject of deeper reflection than has been given by the sciences. One of the foundational theories of my tradition, the book of Genesis, suggests that the extraordinary qualities of the human animal, are due to its being “created” in his/her image by a source of life and intelligence who is also the source of the universe. The need for the creator of humanity to be also the creator of the universe, is that it’s clear from all the sciences that the process by which human beings are created is the natural history of the universe and of our planet. We are made of star stuff and our DNA is fairly similar to that of the fruit flies.
No, I am not suggesting that a creator interfered with the evolutionary process to make it do what he wanted. Indeed all the evidence suggests that the elements of the universe resist control, that the smallest particles of matter are are fundamentally unpredictable. I am suggesting that it is precisely the unpredictable and indeterminate nature of evolution which has produced human intelligence, and that it is precisely the creator’s absence of control and his/her involvement in the pain, loss, and extinctions in the universe, that constitute his/ her deity. God is not effortless power, but an unrelenting drive for perfection which has to work from the inside of matter, life, history and understanding rather than from outside. As these cannot be controlled, they must be persuaded to move towards perfection, which requires God to share the agonies of the process.
This is not my individual theory. This is what the foundational story in the book called Genesis, says.
From the start God “lets be”, allowing some order to come out of chaos, but including elements of chaos, the waters and the darkness, to be part of what is created. Certainly human beings are “let be” in the image of the creator, but this proves to be more of a problem than a success, as the unruly humans cannot be controlled by commands, threats, or punishments and God has to follow the logic of creation by getting down and dirty on the earth, to persuade even one human family to follow his way to perfection.
This story is almost as scandalous a representation of God as that of Jesus of Nazareth who characterised God as a crazy parent so soft on his kids that he gives them the means to waste and destroy his good gifts in riotous living; and when they come whingeing home meets them with soft-hearted indulgence. Would God put up with such humiliations if not because he/she wants to persuade his creatures towards perfection.
So that’s the God invented by the Judaeo- Christian tradition, as a response to living in the same world as scientists. Scientists have some evidence that their inventions, their descriptions and laws correspond to reality. Is there any evidence that the invention of this very strange God corresponds to reality?
Well, as I suggested above, I think that the emergence of the human mind from the process of evolution is possible because the divine mind is embedded in the countless complexities of that process. So there you have it, my first piece of evidence that my tradition’s theory of God points to reality is, the human mind!
But it’s by no means my only evidence, so tune in for another great instalment in two days time, when I move from black holes to warm hearts.