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:
- Sensing should lead to a conscious perception.
- 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?