A Plausible God

In my review of The God Delusion, I promised to post a plausible concept of God. By “a plausible concept,” I mean a concept that doesn’t violate the known principles of science, and should therefore be consistent with the so-called scientific worldview. Mind you, the plausibility of the concept says nothing about its veracity; but it may say something about it being a delusion.

Of all the sciences, physics seems to be the one most at odds with the God concept. Clearly, evolutionary biology is none too happy with it either, if Dawkins is anything to go by. But that analysis is for another post.

Let’s start by analyzing a physicist’s way of “proving” that there is no God. The argument usually goes something like this:

If there is a God who is capable of affecting me in any way, then there should be some force exerted by that God on me. There should be some interaction. Since the interaction is big enough to affect me, I should be able to use this particular interaction to “measure” the God-intensity. So far, I haven’t been able to measure any such God-related force. So either there is no God that affects me in any way, or there is a God that affects me through deviously disguised interactions so that whenever I try to measure the interaction, I’m always fooled. Now, you tell me what is more likely. By Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation (that there is no God that can affect me) has the highest chance of being right.

While this is a good argument (and one I used to make), it is built on a couple of implicit assumptions that are rather tricky to spot. The first assumption is that we cannot be affected by an interaction that we cannot sense. This assumption is not necessarily true.

Modern cosmology needs at least one other kind of interaction to account for dark matter and dark energy. Let’s call this unknown interaction the dark interaction. Even though we cannot sense the dark interaction, we are subject to it exactly as all other (known) matter is. The existence of this interaction beyond our senses is sufficient to break the physicist’s proof. A plausible God can affect us, without our being able to sense it, through dark interactions.

But that is not the end of the story. The physicist can still argue, “Fine, if we cannot sense this God, how would we know he exists? And why do so many people claim they can feel him?” This argument is based on the assumptions on conscious experience and sensing. The hidden assumptions in the physicist’s questions (again, not necessarily true) are:

  1. Sensing should lead to a conscious perception.
  2. All humans should have the same sense modality.

An example of sensing that does not lead to conscious perception is the syndrome of blind sight. (I will post more on it later). A patient suffering from blind sight can point to the light spot he cannot consciously see. Thus, sensing without conscious perception is possible. The second assumption that all men are created equal (in terms of sensory modality) does not have any a priori reason to be true. It is possible that some people may be able to sense the dark interaction (or some other kind of interaction that God chooses) without being conscious of it.

So it is possible to argue that there is a God that affects us through a hitherto unknown interaction. And that some 95% of us can sense this interaction, and the others are atheists. What this argument illustrates is the plausibility of God. More precisely, it demonstrates the consistency of a concept of God with physics. It is not meant to be a proof of the existence of God. And that is why, despite the plausibility of God, I am still an atheist.

In retrospect, this argument did not have to be so complicated. It boils down to saying that there are limits on our knowledge, and to what is knowable. There is plenty of room for God outside these limits. It is also a classic argument by those who believe in God — you don’t know everything, so how do you know there isn’t a God?


5 thoughts on “A Plausible God”

  1. Dude,

    You clearly are not an atheist… you’re an agnostic. And you clearly are confused. I know saying that ‘my limited knowledge as a human being prevents me from knowing for sure if there is a GOD” seems to be something that intelligent, tolerat people might do, but we have to take the evidence that we have, and come to conclusions for the era that we live in. Aristotle sure made a mistake y saying all mater was made of water, earth, fire, and air, but that in NO WAY means that he shlouldn’t have attempted to explain matter, because he wasn’t well equipped to.

    Moreover, I think you’ve read Dawkins’ God Delusion the wrong way. He has a problem with ‘Religion’ as a potential Pandora’s box. And surely, when someone in India says “You shall be punished by God if you do this, and hence you shouldn’t do it” is surely DELUSIONAL.

    The way I see it is, you’ve so deeply been infested with religion (And God) like most of us are, through mindless ‘teaching’ since our childhood, that when you hear something against GOD, the deep recesses of your mind shout out to you – “This can’t be right! There’s something wrong with this!!”

    It’s a tragedy of sorts that educated people like us still can’t shed the minconceptions seeded into us from childhood. It’s like we let this fungus grow around us, and then try to get out of it for the rest of our lives.

    And by definition… You are not an atheist!

    1. Hi Jitesh,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You may be right, I may not be an atheist — by (some) definition. It doesn’t bother me what label gets attached to my line of thinking — could be atheist, agnostic, free-thinking, nihilist, religious or whatever. I just happen to think the way I do, regardless of what it is called.

      What may be more important is to see beyond the labels. For instance, when we talk about concepts learned through education, and misconceptions planted in us from childhood, what exactly is the difference between them, other than the connotation of the words? I wrote a column on connotations some time ago. Here it is.

  2. You raise some stellar points. We don’t know it all.
    Even evolution is a theory, especially when you consider that scientists still don’t know exactly how the world began. There’s a theory that lightning and gases blew up, but exactly what gases, and even whether that’s possible, is still a theory.
    So at the end of the day, you have to have faith that there is a God, or faith that the Big Bang theory is true and an explosion did create the world as we know it.
    While dark matter is an interesting debate, it’s hard to explain how someone who is 80 suddenly starts believing in God, or someone who has followed God for a long time suddenly stops. If they’ve always felt that dark matter, why start or stop believing suddenly? I think it’s more than a perception of dark matter, it’s just straight faith.
    I believe in God, and one of the things that got me putting my trust in God was thinking about how in the world an explosion ever created anything. Looking at the complex life forms and that really makes me wonder how there isn’t a Creator.

  3. Hi Manoj,

    BTW – good effort in setting up your blog. I had attempted to post a reply to ‘A Plausible God’. It was rather long so I think it may have been rejected. Is there a word number limit to the posts? rgds, Amer

  4. Hi Manoj,

    You can use this as a place holder for my response if you decide to post it from the email I sent you. rgds, amer

Comments are closed.