Beyond the God of Einstein
“Behold, a light hath shone forth out of the Morn of eternity, and lo! its waves have penetrated the inmost reality of all men” — Tradition quoted by Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 102
There are those who have embraced a very abstract understanding of God, some might call it the God of Einstein. Einstein referred to himself as a “pantheistic” believer in the “God of Spinoza”. He did not believe in a personal God which is concerned with the individual. He also felt the problem of God to be “the most difficult in the world” and considered it “too vast for our limited minds”. While I might quibble with the details of his “pantheism” I still feel very akin to this approach philosophically and think that this God might apply to what I term ‘God in its essence’ for which as a Baha’i I would deny any direct knowledge. However I do believe there exists a real ‘God’ manifest in the universe, abstracted below this ‘God in its essence’ which is conscious, personal and has been expressed via messengers throughout human history. This is the same God which the major religions refer to.
However, religion, in particular this sort of traditional theism, appears to be in full retreat in the broader culture. In my experience, the attacks on theism seem to be growing in the nature of their viciousness, ridicule and derision, spreading beyond the traditional intellectual class and moving down through all classes of society. As this sort of disbelief filters down, the antagonism seems to grow, fueled by what I see as a feeling of betrayal, the anger of ‘feeling’ duped. It is also due to the whole sale murder, tyranny, corruption and the celebration of ignorance which is and has been done in the name of religion. At times rejection of theism is so dogmatic and unthinking that it reminds me a lot of the mindset of the ultra-religious literalist. Any hint of theism is cast as some sort of anti-science, tyrannical delusion and rejected without any consideration. On the other side are those who still hold to literalist traditional beliefs, while dwindling, they are now more trenchant in their rejection of science and intellectualism than ever.
To be sure there are also many traditional theists who do accept rationality and the authority of modern science, yet their voices seem dimmer and arguments for belief vaguer and at times the science seems to strain against their stance. It is in support of this position that I wanted to layout my logical reasons for belief. I have other more important reasons based on my personal experience with the writings of Baha’u’llah, prayer and meditation, but those may not be easily understood by others who haven’t shared this experience.
To be clear I don’t claim that my logical reasons for belief constitute a ‘definitive’ proof for the existence of such a deity. I am strongly convinced that such project is beyond the scope of human logic and would concur with Einstein’s claim that this question is “too vast for our limited minds”. I also want to be clear that what I am interested in justifying is not the ‘Absolute’ or ‘God’ in its essence, or what I might call the God of Einstein, which I believe to be beyond conception, definition and beyond the approach of any consciousness. What I am interested in is justifying the existence of a being who in relation to humans has the attributes of God.
I begin in the usual place were many theists start looking, the law of cause and effect or the causal chain. Normally theist like to appeal to a logical first cause. Atheists reply, “then what caused your first cause?” and if your first cause can be uncaused why not the universe? Of course, atheists have a point, but what is usually overlooked is that this line of reasoning implies eternity, or an infinite chain of causation. The standard theist approach unnecessarily cedes the realm of eternity. In my opinion, eternity as one of the attributes of God, is perhaps a more ‘solid’ foundation to build their case.
Related to first cause is the question of the origin of the observable order in existence. This is another favorite for theists. However, I want to take this in direction which I haven’t seen dealt with yet. My central claim is that, when considering the origin of order and causation in our universe one is left with two choices both of which lead down a metaphysical path and ultimately a form of theism. One can appeal to statistical physics via an eternal universe or one can appeal to a physical ‘first-cause’ which theists tend to prefer. The later approach assumes a universe bounded at its inception and probably finite. Traditional creationists often like to point to the 2nd law of thermodynamics which is interpreted to claim that order must be decreasing in the universe. So, if it were not for some initial source of order which they attribute to their favorite creator, our universe should be in an entropic death and not teaming with the beauty and order which we observe.
Modern cosmologists would answer this by appealing to quantum fluctuations of the vacuum as is done in the book “A Universe from Nothing” by Krauss or a recurring cosmic big bang and big crunch. Others argue for some sort of multi-verse which our universe is but one of an infinite number of bubble-like universes. However, all these possible scenarios require at the very least infinite time or eternity and possibly infinite space to account for the origin of order. So yes, quantum probabilities should bring about recurring and spontaneous symmetry breaking provided the time or space scales are long enough. But the implications of an infinite universe in time and space in relation to theism are rarely explored. On the point of an infinite universe the current evidence seems to favor it. This is due to the measured flatness of the universe…which is totally flat at least to the distances that humans have been able to measure. Thus, the shape of the universe which is the best fit to this data would be an infinitely flat one.
The issue is, if the universe inhabits an infinite space or even time as the current evidence suggests and the rules of causation imply respectively, the sheer force of any sort of statistics operating over either of these infinities in time or space will “surly” make it explore all possible states even the highly unlikely ones. The question is could one of these states involve something with all the attributes we commonly ascribe to a deity?
Let us consider what these attributes are? If we consider human consciousness as being created in the ‘image of God’ as is asserted in many of the great religious texts, then we can deduce several attributes for the proposed divine. These are creative power, love and knowledge to name just the basic ones. The question then becomes if given infinite time and space could a configuration of consciousness come into existence which was possessed of a creative power to bring a new universe into existence? which could love in an all-encompassing manner and have knowledge of all aspects of the cosmos? If such a being could ever exist, then by virtue of its nature it has always existed and will continue to do so.
This of course involves extrapolating what we do know about the evolution of human consciousness. We do observe that on our planet consciousness has emerged through a process taking about half a billion years. It has gone from the simple perception of insects, to maternal nurturing of birds and lower mammals, to social pack interaction and in humans’ complex civilizations. Along the way the capacities for creativity, knowledge and love have grown, reaching a current apex in the human species. Is it unreasonable to think this process can continue towards levels of knowledge, love and creativity unimaginable in the way that the human attributes of knowledge, love and creativity are unimaginable to insects? Now consider what an infinite universe might potentially yield? To me the answer seems obvious though I cannot prove definitely that such a being exists, the evidence based on extrapolation is very compelling.
As a Baha’i, I would claim that one doesn’t need to search the expanse of the universe to recognize that our earth has already hosted individuals who manifested all these attributes. Examples are individuals like, Christ, Muhammed, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster and we believe more recently the Bab and Baha’u’llah. They manifested love, knowledge and released creative forces in society on a level beyond that of ordinary human consciousness. Relative to them, ordinary human consciousness is like that of a lower mammal. To my thinking their very existence vindicate the existence of such a deity.
“O SON OF MAN! Wert thou to speed through the immensity of space and traverse the expanse of heaven, yet thou wouldst find no rest save in submission to Our command and humbleness before Our Face.” –Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah