Thursday, April 14, 2011

"God's Plan" Verses "Not Knowing"

Whatever discoveries are made in the evolutionary sciences, one can always argue that it was all part of “Gods plan.”  Do I believe that?  No, but it can always be argued.  It is what I like to call the “argument of the unarguable” [or “the easy answer”].  I’ve always found it odd that some, when confronted by something they don’t understand, are quick to slap the “God label” on it and call it good (which doesn’t leave much room for healthy introspection, but I digress).

Religion is strictly a matter of faith.  At it's core is a belief that realistically can not be proven scientifically (nor can it be disproved for that matter). Religious faith ultimately boils down to emotional decision-making. I don’t know of any logical argument that make valid sense for the existence of a God, so therefore the leap of faith inevitably culminates to emotional reasoning.  

The God hypothesis just doesn’t make sense from the perspective of science.  Faith is an emotional leap because, when it comes down to it, belief often boils down to nothing more than a “gut feeling” regarding the existence of God (which is obviously very different than scientifically validating it).  Any logic I’ve come across that might point to the truth of the God hypothesis (something had to start the universe, we needed God for our morality, humans are too irreducibly complex to have evolved without divine intervention, etc) inevitably fails to live up to scientific scrutiny.  This is what is meant by an “emotional leap of faith.”  There is no judgment in this statement.  There are many equally valid ways of knowing that cross both hemispheres of the brain.  One can only get by so far on logic alone.  As they say, one can only approach Zen from the right.

Do I sleep better being scientifically informed?  I take comfort in the fact that humanity (in my humble scientifically-based opinion) is ultimately good at its core.  The idea of “original sin” is often the vehicle that induces guilt and culminates to what I we scientists like to call “the myth of the universal mortal flaw."  Guilt is just something people feel when they don’t know any better.  It’s a negative feedback look that does nothing other than perpetuate suffering and self-hatred.  Its adaptive function would be to serves as a catalyst for deeper introspection and future behavioral change – nothing more.  Guilt should never override compassionate action.

Knowing that I am not a bad person and don’t have to succumb to the paralysis that typically accompanies fear helps me sleep better.  Freud once said that it is ones inability to tolerate ambiguity that is the first sign of neurosis (he was consequently also the one who said that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” yet happened to ironically die from mouth cancer due to smoking said phallic cancer-stick, so take this with a grain a salt). 

One of the main things I’ve learned in life is that it’s okay not to know.  Actually, it’s much closer to reality.  Studies have actually found that clinically depressed patients are more realistic (and they probably don’t believe in god either).  It is a collective delusion to think that we have to have a concrete answer to each and every mystery of life.  Instead of saying “it’s Gods will” I have found it much more useful to embrace reality by saying “I don’t know.”  It’s freeing.  With the small amount of cranial capacity that we utilize, any other answer to me just seems to be nothing more than simple hubris. 

Life is so full of distractions.  The search for the “missing link” argument for proof of evolution is pretty misguided and unnecessary.  Scientists have already discovered multiple missing links and “transitionary species."  Dawkins suggests, and I agree, that if we laid out every fossil of every creature that lived in a linear fashion, it would be fairly hard to discern where one species began and where the other one ended.  Australopithecus, ardipithecus, homo habilis, homo erectus – they’re all intermediates between humanity and some prior species we all evolved from and tend to be just “names” inferred upon them by biased humans anyway, and are, in and of themselves, fairly meaningless. 

Evolutionary science doesn’t need fossils to prove that natural selection is the functionary mechanism that drives evolution.  The evidence is all around us.  Ask any dog breeder, or scientist who studies virus’s, or notice the fact that elephants are evolving to have smaller tusks since the beginning of last century (when ivory poaching went into full swing), or that guppies evolve to have brighter spots when they’re taken out of predatory environments, or polar bears are beginning to mate with grizzly bears, or that silver foxes selectively bred for tameness evolve to look very similar to boarder collies (complete with black and white coloring and floppy ears) after 60 generations or so.  The evidence is all around us.  It is obvious, we don’t need fossils to make a good argument for the mechanics of evolution.

There will always be roughly 33.3% of the population who will continues to maintain an unshakable faith in unbelievable things despite the mountains of  evidence against it.  There comes a point in therapy where a client is asked where they get their strength from in life (a subtle means, most therapist would agrue, of trying to communicate to them that they are indeed, stronger than they give themselves credit for).  Inevitably someone will say, “god gives it to me!” which unwittingly discounts ones own internal locus of control in their lives (which may or may not be why they’re in therapy in the first place).  It is important to acknowledge that it was a “personal choice” that guided them towards the faith they have for a god who guides them towards their strength.  

There's a joke about the guy lived in a valley that was flooding who wouldn’t leave his roof as the, stating to everyone who attempted to rescue him that he had a deep faith and was confident god would save him.  He brushed off continuous offers, stating confidently to those attempting to offer assistance to him, "I have faith god will rescue me."  When he inevitably drowned and went to heaven, he angrily confronts his god and states that because of his unyielding faith he should have been saved!  God replies, “What are you talking about?  I sent you a bus, two boats and a helicopter!  What more could I have done for you???”  Such are the trappings of credulity and blind faith.  We all create our own realities in this life and it only follows that we should be held accountable for the inevitable consequences of these beliefs.

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