Earlier this year I wrote a somewhat controversial post (to put it mildly) titled, How scientists lose the average layman. It dealt with the disconnect between much of the scientific community and the laymen who make up the majority of the population, with particular emphasis on people of faith who are frequently in conflict with them. This week I found my interest in the subject renewed when NPR published a two part article by Nancy Ellen Abrams, the wife of cosmologist Joel R. Primack, one of the principle drivers behind the rise of Dark Matter and Dark Energy theory. (Without going into all this yet again, let’s just say that I find the idea of Dark Matter being “settled science” which might not be completely disproven and abandoned in a decade or a century to be a stretch.)
Ms. Abrams seems to fall into the category of those who are somewhat dismayed by the possibility that the hapless rubes in the general public may fail to support every breakthrough in the scientific community. This is because so many of the scientists who take roles as television spokesmodels (e.g Neil deGrasse Tyson) are so completely dismissive of and condescending to the billions of unfortunate troglodytes around the world who still pitifully cling to the notion of a supreme being. With a new book, helpfully titled, “A God That Could Be Real“, Ms. Abrams seeks to assuage the hurt feelings of the religious by asserting that we can all believe in God… assuming that this God fellow can measure up to certain critical tests. In the first of her two part essay, she begins with a breathtaking synopsis which sets the stage for this proposal perfectly.
“God” is a word. If we define it, even subconsciously, as something that cannot exist in our universe, we banish the idea of God from our reality and throw away all possibility of incorporating a potent spiritual metaphor into a truly coherent big picture. But if we take seriously the reliable — and, thus, invaluable — scientific and historical knowledge we now possess, we can redefine God in a radically new and empowering way that expands our thinking and could help motivate and unite us in the dangerous era humanity is entering.
I know she’s got everyone in the audience here onboard without any further help from me. I can only imagine how eager you all are to redefine God in a radically new and empowering way, and your various church and temple leaders will doubtless be looking forward to the upcoming lightening of their workload. But how exactly are we to structure this new god for the 21st century? Well, Ms. Abrams has five helpful bullet points which don’t so much involve who God is, but who He can not possibly be.
These are characteristics of a God that can’t be real:
God existed before the universe.
God created the universe.
God knows everything.
God intends everything that happens.
God can choose to violate the laws of nature.
Okay then! The good news is that those five stunningly simple points will shorten the Bible considerably, particularly the Old Testament, and the kids will have a lot less material to memorize in Sunday school. But any revolutionary new product requires a solid marketing campaign and Abrams understands that you’ll need the correct pitch to make the sale on this one. In the second part of her essay, cleverly titled, “A New Way To Think About God“, she goes into the details.
She begins with a simple analogy for those of you who rode the short bus and might have trouble keeping up. You see, people are sort of like ants. Ants are stupid. As the author points out, they’re really only capable of grasping a few basic concepts and performing less than half a dozen rote tasks. But when you put them together in their masses of thousands, they form a kind of hive mind which can build huge structures and last for decades. Where are we going with this? Good question!
People are sort of stupid too. (Presumably we’re talking about the non-Ivy League scientist ones here.) But when you combine all the people on the planet together, we produce an emergent phenomenon. Examples of this are a global economy, the government and the media. (No… stop laughing. Go read it for yourself. I’m not making this up. Those are the exact three examples she cited.) So if we’re capable of working as a vast global hive to create things like that, then surely we can collectively create a usable god which won’t violate any of the aforementioned scientific rules. Wasn’t that easy?
And if we can get everyone to agree that we all believe in God, then you ignorant peasants will stop complaining about the smart people who are trying to save you from the pitiful cesspool of ignorance you are currently drowning in. Oh, and you can stop yelling at Tyson and Bill Nye and finally get on board with global warming, dark matter and whatever else you need to believe in.
Feel better? I know I certainly do. But on the odd chance that Ms. Abrams winds up reading this brief missive, allow me to close with a restatement of an observation I made in the original article linked above. It seems particularly apt for a person who is married to a progenitor of dark matter theory who wants to tell us what God can not possibly be.
The same scientists who scoff derisively at some invisible man in the sky who nobody can see or directly detect in any fashion, but who created the universe, apparently have no problem with some invisible, vast body of stuff up in the sky which nobody can see or directly detect in any fashion, but which controls the evolution of the universe and makes their current theory of gravitational attraction work out for them.
EDIT: (Jazz) The following programming note was moved to the bottom of this article after it was no longer applicable. No other changes were made.
[First a short programming note: Allahpundit wanted to run the White House Correspondent’s Dinner post as the open thread tonight, so there will be no Quotes of the Day tonight. Please use the WHCD thread for your overnight open thread activities.]