“Those who don’t believe in God will believe in anything,” is an apt epigram, no matter whether G.K. Chesterton coined it or something like it. From Chesterton to an Islamist is an unlikely leap. This fictional one is apropos. Here is Robert Rediger, president of the Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne, in Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission.
“At the end of the day, isn’t there something ridiculous about some puny creature, living on an anonymous planet, in a remote spur of an ordinary galaxy, standing up on his hind legs announcing, “God does not exist”?
Put aside whether, as Rediger says, it is “ridiculous.” The assertion that “God does not exist,” is an expression of what isn’t. By definition, it leaves open the question of what is. Men and women aren’t, on the whole, the secular and profane creatures that assertive atheists would like them to be. They search for meaning. This is where science seizes its chance.
The receding belief in God, specifically the Christian god, has led to the fall of biblically-bound priests and the corresponding rise of unconstrained and, as it turns out, overly-imaginative and publicity-seeking scientists. God is a superstition. The new godhead is pseudo-scientific speculations about the universe. These are lapped up by audiences starved of spirituality. This is not to say that God exists (though I personally have faith He does). It is to say that nature abhors a vacuum and that absent God all kinds of funny ideas fill the void.
As Rodney Stark eloquently sets out in The Victory of Reason, Christianity from its early centuries extolled the God-given human faculty of reason. Reason leads to the search for scientific truth. But, seldom do searches lead to enlightenment without a reference point.
A logical and consistent creator God is a strong reference point. The search for scientific truth, as described by the former head of the human genome project Francis Collins, becomes a search for The Language of God. This imposes discipline as well as direction. Lose the discipline and the infinitesimal probability of our universe and our being (Fred Hoyle likened it to the chance of a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard assembling a Boeing 747) leads on to fanciful speculation dressed up as science.
One of these flights of fancy – for which there is and never will be one jot of proof – is that our universe is just one of an infinite number of universes. In turn, this leads to the absurd notion of an infinite number of parallel universes within which you, I and the lady next door are replicated an infinite number of times. And without missing a beat, scientists attest that the vastness of the cosmos pretty well guarantees that we are not alone.
One scientist of great reputation (I will keep his name secret to preserve his blushes) even went so far as to warn against us sending out signals lest intelligences vastly superior to our own learnt of our existence and dealt mercilessly with us inferior beings. Well, of course, superior beings exist and, as we speak, are dealing with us mercilessly. Boneheads! If there are an infinite number of universes no possible scenario is failing to occur.
Think this is phantasmagorical? Well, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees (“Why Alien Life Will Be Robotic,” Nautilus, Oct. 22, 2015) believes, as do other science notables, that our organic life is a transitory stage on the evolutionary path towards inorganic beings with IQs far surpassing our own. Believe it or not, this robotic life will apparently head spaceward and meet other inorganic civilisations in other worlds.
Imagine if Lionel Messi, the best footballer (soccer player) of his generation, looked into his crystal ball and prophesised that in future all of those playing for Barcelona would be robots playing the game much more skilfully than he could imagine. Hmm! Lionel, what you been smokin’, son?
This is all comic-book stuff. Believe any of it and you will believe anything. But people do. Welcome to godless credulity; to the age of science fiction made real. It has a prosaic side to it too. Global warming (GW) is the example, par excellence.
The symptoms of a belief in GW are everywhere to be seen as the worship of wind and sun totems. These, for some, fill the yawning gap, which belief in God might have previously occupied. People from every land and their governments have not only embraced a tenuous scientific theory that burning fossil fuels will bring catastrophe to the human race but, bizarrely, and against all reason, that it is possible to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar farms and, at the same time, preserve the prosperity that fossil fuels have brought to large swathes of humanity since the industrial revolution.
Something is going on to make otherwise sane and sensible people believe this kind of thing. And, again, my thesis is that ‘science’, in the case of GW allied with rent-seeking opportunists, is stuffing the empty space in people’s heads, occupied previously by religion, with unadulterated hooey.
If you are Richard Dawkins et al you are inwardly sated with the view that we, along with cockroaches, sprang spontaneously and meaninglessly, by sheer chance, from inorganic primeval mud. Find this disquieting? That’s nothing, be alarmed. Aliens out there might want to do us in if they found us according to Stephen Hawking (oops, sorry didn’t mean to mention his name). At the same time, be consoled. We are not alone.
Our show is just one of an infinite number of similar shows except, to be sure, to be sure, where robots run the show. Unlike us, fit for purpose and unafraid, they boldly go to explore the cosmos and shake antennas with other robots living light years distant. Meanwhile, on our little corner of the vast cosmos, Aeolus and Apollo lend their dominions of wind and sun to save and power us. Though why they bother with our pissant world in the vastness of the godless infinitude is beyond me.
Pass the bong anyone.