Good and Errant Philosophy and Religion and Its Relation to Evidence
Philosophical Papers --- 4/16/2020
I will hold Philosophy and Religion (Theology) to the same standard that science is held to: that good Philosophy and correct Religion is connected to and consistent with evidence, as for example evidence from the natural world, just as science is correct when it is connected to evidence, and science, religion, and philosophy are errant or go errant when they are contrary to or inconsistent with evidence.
Just a personal note here, as I studied science and became a scientist as well as Philosopher, I started to realize that quite a bit of Philosophy is wrong and errant even though I have so much respect for Philosophy. So, then, I reasoned, what makes good and correct Philosophy and what makes errant and incorrect Philosophy. Clearly there are philosophical systems and treatises that are largely imaginary and mostly wrong. I find when I investigate that there is a common thread in these errant philosophies. They are philosophies that are not tied to evidence. Hence, I have become over time a scientific philosopher or a philosopher that is careful to tie his philosophy to evidence and what we know from science. The same is true of religion. I have found, upon investigation, that the wrong and even ridiculous parts of religions and religious tenants are those parts which are not tied to evidence, notably often not tied to or even contrary to facts of nature. I will cite some examples. Christianity often says that God is merciful. But, if we reason that we can know the nature of God primarily through the evidence of what God has created, i.e., the natural universe, then we have to reason that the Christian belief that God is merciful is contrary to what we see in nature (that animals must kill each other to survive and that natural events like tornados, hurricanes, bacteria, and viruses kill etc.) and therefore must be false. This is an example of errant religion. Another example, the Sufi belief that the universe revolves. This is evident in the nature of atoms, of solar systems, or the rotation of the earth, or the circulation of the blood, etcÖ and so this is a sensible religious belief because it is consistent with evidence from nature. This is good religion. Now, religions talk about only a few things: God and the nature of God, Godís relation to man, and manís relation to man or ethics. So, religion has to be consistent not only with the facts of nature (or Godís works) but also the facts of man or the facts of human nature. The Bible and Christianity is correct that man is sometimes evil, as this is evident from the facts of much human behavior, that human beings sometimes harm other human beings and we can surmise first form an intention to harm (which is the essence of my definition of evil), but also have good intentions and actions, i.e., of humans helping humans. The Christian belief that there is a Satan that is the cause of evil is not sensible as the ghost character Satan has never been observed. Itís pretty clear that human beings themselves are the cause of evil. Parenthetically, if one observes that acts of nature harm and kill humans therefore God must be sometimes evil, I donít subscribe to this belief either, because, as Iíve said, God created nature as a mechanism, and then, as the Deists say, left it to run on its own, the mechanism sometimes breaks down (as in giving a child cancer) or causes harm (as a tornado) but there is no evil intent involved in these acts. Note that if you suppose God is in control of all that happens you would have to reason that God is sometimes evil because nature causes harm: I reject this reasoning and consider nature a mere MECHANISM that God created. Clearly also though you must reason that God created something that is imperfect and sometimes breaks down (the mechanism of nature). But back to the question at hand: sensible and non-sensical religion as consistent with or inconsistent with evidence notably the evidence of nature. Note we scientists study the mechanism that God created. Mechanisms canít originally create themselves in my view, although the mechanism of nature, like evolution, creates mechanisms like the bodies of organisms. I would have to think about this more.
Now Philosophy and Religion sometimes discuss matters for which there is little evidence or are somewhat outside the realm of evidence. Here, such matters must be eventually tied to evidence and must be careful to use the rules of reasoning correctly to discuss such matters. One of the reasons I have so much respect for science and have become more scientific in my philosophy after having studied science is that science always believes what is the case and opposed to religion and philosophy which often believe what they desire or want to be the case even though it isnít the case. The difference is evidence. Science only holds beliefs which are connected to evidence.
Religion Consists of Three Things and the Relation Between These Three Things (My Philosophy of Religion)
The three things are God (or Goddess or Gods), the Universe, and Man. And the relations are:
1. The Nature of God (or Gods and if polytheism Gods relations to other Gods)
2. Godís Relation to the Universe
3. Godís Relation to Man
4. The Nature of Man
5. The Nature of the Universe
6. Manís Relation to the Universe
7. Manís Relation to Man (Ethics)
Not all religions talk about all seven things. For example, in Buddhism there isnít really talk about God. However, in most religions all seven are covered to various degrees. I use the word God loosely as some religions have multiple gods, so understand we may be talking about God or Gods.
My Religion and My Philosophy of Religion
I will discuss here both my religion or my philosophy of religion and other religions and the relation between my philosophy of religion and other religions.
My religion starts with evidence of what type of God God is through studying his works (nature).I do not include miracles or other interventions of God as I do not believe in these as I believe God created the universe as a mechanism and left or sits back and watches. I donít believe in or see any sort of intervention. I am more like a Deist in this respect, like the forefathers of America and the political geniuses who framed the constitution are (and also geniuses and students of human nature, thatís why our constitution still works). They were not Christians, they were Deists!
I am Like a Deist --- a Scientific Deist
I am definitely a type of Deist, but perhaps should qualify my belief and call myself a Scientific Deist. I believe God created the universe but see no evidence of any intervention, perhaps left or stands back to observe, and I believe in Reason which man possesses potentially to a great degree from which he can unravel many of the mysteries of the world through science (observation and reason or reasoning from evidence). Deism has fallen out of favor since the 1800s which is a shame because I consider it the most rational of beliefs most consistent with scientific evidence. The forefathers of America who created the constitution and Washington our first president were Deists, as was Voltaire, a French Philosopher, and many other famous people, perhaps Einstein and Newton among them basically. Irregardless of the fact that very few people in modern society identify as Deists, I think science and scientific knowledge should bring back the belief in big fashion.I, like Attenborough (who I learned is mostly a broadcaster but does have a degree in zoology and geology and I consider a naturalist), am an agnostic epistemologically, but go beyond epistemological agnosticism towards a type of scientific Deism which supports evolution. Attenborough astutely stated that evolution is not inconsistent with the notion of God. Itís very simple, God created the mechanism known as evolution, then let it run on its own. Evolution is an interaction between chemistry (which God created through chemical evolution), i.e., mutations, and interaction with and changes in the environment.
I say God created a mechanism, the mechanism of nature or of the universe. What do I mean by a mechanism? I donít mean exactly what you mean by a car being a mechanism. Yes, there are parts, and the parts do things and work together to achieve things like the motion of a car, just as a body has parts like organs that work together to achieve things like digestion. But, I mean more than that. If I say the whole universe is a mechanism (perhaps even the non-physical universe, which I will address elsewhere), I mean that evolution itself is a mechanism, cosmic, chemical, and biological evolution. Cosmic evolution clearly occurs, the universe isnít today as it was during the Big Bang, it evolved, stars evolved from gases, galaxies evolved from the clustering of stars etc., chemicals themselves evolved from hydrogen and helium to other elements formed in the furnaces of stars to molecules which evolved from the interaction of elements according to a type of dynamic chemical balance, to the formation of life which evolved chemically from inorganic to organic molecules to super biomolecules to biomolecular systems like the cell, to the evolution from singular-celled organism to multicellular ones like us. It can all be explained mechanistically by a dynamic mechanism or set of mechanistic laws which evolve. Certainly, cosmic and chemical evolution can be explained by the physical and chemical laws which are mechanistic (Note my and Raymondís book on Chemical Evolution does this).Biological evolution itself however involves VOLITIONS as well as chemical mechanisms. This is often not stated. Biological evolution is the natural selection of random mutations. Random mutations are a strictly mechanistic chemical event. However, natural selection and adaptive behavior involves volition, as the new trait that a non-lethal mutation may cause is only adaptive and successful by the behavior of the animal or organism, where the motor behavior of the organism occurs by its choices (volition) on how to deal with the mutation or a changing environment. The will to survive, critical to organisms that pass on their progeny in a changing environment, survival behavior is voluntary behavior involving volition. Evolution also occurs by the natural selection of adaptations to changing environments where mutations are not involved, which is strictly through behavioral changes, the successful behavioral changes resulting in survival that results in a new evolutionary lineage, behavior being driven by volition. So, you have mechanism in evolution, certainly in cosmic and chemical evolution, but you have volition as well in biological evolution and clearly in psychosocial evolution (history). Mechanism also are imperfect and break down. A child getting cancer isnít the result of an evil interacting God, as a Deist I donít believe in Godís interaction with man, but rather a break down in the mechanism of the human body. If you believed in an interacting God, i.e., were a Christian instead of a Deist, you would have to reason that God is evil because he interacted and CHOSE to give an innocent child cancer. I do not believe this, it is just a mechanism which broke down. Mechanisms determine much of what occurs in the universe, but they are dynamic and sometimes chaotic and sometimes break down. The original Deists, which predated Darwinís theory of evolution, may have been Creationists, which I thorough reject, I am an evolutionist not a Creationist. And then we may ask is the universe random or determined? And here I have to say, although there is some randomness in nature, like the randomness of chemical mutations, there is more a case of a mechanism unfolding which has to, to a large extent, unfold as it does, dictated by physical and chemical forces. The volitional component of evolution however is not ruled by physical and chemical forces and is not random either but is intentional, so although there is randomness but more determination, there is also some intention involved in how the natural universe unfolds. How the psychosocial universe (human history) unfolds is MOSTLY based upon volition and intention, so it is quite different than the natural universe in this respect.
To what extent is the universe random or determined is a question that requires more investigation. There is a theory, popular among atheists, that the universe is a set of purely random events.I.e., a belief that all of the order in nature came about by strictly random processes. Some theologians have ridiculed this idea by saying, yes, hereís a car, it was formed by body parts that just happened to get thrown together in the right way, and then magically and randomly an engine came out of nowhere as was magically set in the car, and then the tire just happened to roll up and the perfectly functional car was formed randomly. These are the same theologians that argue if the car has a design there must have been a designer. Now, itís not exactly as stupid as that as they believe order was established by random processes ruled by physical laws. So immediately we are saying that the universe is not strictly random as there are universal physical laws which order random processes.But do physical laws determine which ordered processes and stuffs will occur or evolve in the universe? Could the universe have been significantly otherwise? I think again the atheists would argue yes and the determinists or even theists who believe in a divine plan would say no. Note you can be a determinist without any appeal to a deity. Certainly, our universe has a design. But is it a design that is just a result of universal physical laws applied to random events? And by the way, where did the universal physical laws come from? Iíll leave that question aside for a moment. It seems that yes there is randomness in the universe and there is order in the chaos. We know also that there are universal physical laws. Take the Big Bang. There was a tremendous explosion which took place which spread subatomic particles throughout space. But physical laws resulted in these quarks being brought together to form atoms. At first they were just the simplest atoms: hydrogen and helium. And forgive me for not telling the story of the Big Bang quite right, I would have to read up on it. Gases of helium and hydrogen condensed due to gravity (where did gravity come from) and formed stars. Extreme temperatures and pressures according to physical laws resulted in atoms fusing and performing nucleogenesis which resulted in heavier elements. These stars eventually condensed and exploded (a supernova) and spread the heavier elements throughout space, many in stellar clouds. In these stellar clouds more events happened according to physical laws, atoms under the right temperature and pressure and conditions began forming simple molecules. The story goes on. But what is happening here in what I have described so far? Events like explosions create chaos and atoms being close to each other may be random events but physical forces (like gravity) and laws act on the chaos to bring about heavier atoms and molecules. Could it have been otherwise? Or was it determined that stars would be formed from the condensation of hydrogen and helium in space and heavier atoms would be formed in solar furnaces and molecules would be formed in stellar clouds? I would say it looks like what happened had to happen because of physical forces which we describe with universal laws on somewhat random things like clouds of elements. I.e., there was determinism (of physical forces) determining what would happen in somewhat chaotic and random environments. Thatís why I said the universe is a largely determined (and Iím not saying by God necessarily but by physical forces) set of events operating on some random chaos (there is some randomness too, but not ONLY randomness). And then in evolution there is volition involved too. Where did volition and consciousness come from? We may say consciousness just came from the brain, and thatís possible. But how did something undetermined like volition come from a determined universe? Now if you take something like the formation of life on earth. Since overwhelmingly most planets donít have life (I am supposing there is life outside of earth) it is clear that you have to have an unusual coincidence of conditions for life to occur on a planet. That set of conditions seems somewhat random. It does seem if you have those conditions (a magnetic shield from ultraviolet radiation, liquid water from being not too close or too far from a star, the right molecules existing in the air and water, etc.) then the determinant physical forces will give you some sort of life. So, you clearly have a bunch of randomness in what planets will have those conditions and then you have physical forces that will create life if you have those conditions: determinism working on some type of random chaos.
What We Know About God and the Nature of God
On religion, and maybe I am giving my philosophy of religion here, on the three questions and answer of religion I would have to reason as follow. On the nature of God, we only can know God through studying his works, i.e., nature, and can therefore surmise what sort of God he is by what sort of natural mechanism he has created. We know much about God through nature. We can see the precise details of how he constructed the universe. Scientists are students of God. As Leonard in the Big Bang theory said ďI see what you did there, creator of the universe, good one.Ē Or as Sheldon of the Big Bang theory said ďIím tearing the mask off of nature to stare in the face of God,Ē i.e., Iím looking under the phenomena of nature to discover the physics rules and laws and mathematics God used to create it. We know God likes balances, i.e., think about chemistry, every interaction between chemicals and hence chemical equations is a balance. Much of physics and biology (consider homeostasis) is about balances. We know, as the Sufiís observed, that God likes circles, spheres, and rotations.
Gender or Genderless of God, Goddess, or Gods.
Number of Gods: Monotheism and Polytheism.
What We Know About Godís Relation to Man
On the relation between God and man, we can know only a few things. We know that God gave man, and all other creates, volition or free will. We donít know how God did this, as it appears as a contradiction that a creature can be both subject to a deterministic universe or deterministic mechanism of nature and yet have free will. It exists and we donít and probably canít understand how it exists. Again, Godís mind and abilities are greater than our finite mindís ability to apprehend how he does everything he does. We know that because we have been given free will we are responsible for our intentions. We can have good intentions and intentions to not harm or even to help and we are free to have bad intention or intentions to harm, i.e., evil. God did not create evil. But he created a creature that because he gave him free will is capable of evil, is capable of both good and evil and is responsible for his choices and actions.We know that God created creature, including man, with consciousness. It is possible that consciousness is nonphysical (it is also possible that it is not, we donít know, we may know someday through neuroscience, but it is perplexing, and we may NEVER know). We also have reason to believe that volition is nonphysical, i.e., it appears to be able to cause without having been caused, which is contrary to a deterministic universe in which everything has a cause, hence it is perplexing and we may never know or understand how this is the case, but it is. So we know that Godís relation to man is that God intended to give man volitional consciousness in fact to give all creatures volitional consciousness. He meant for us to be free, to be able to chose between good and evil, and to be responsible for our actions. I wrote this in my poem when I was 16 years old: ďIt was Godís choice that man be Themisí equal and weigh in his small pan of science the weight of judgement and defiance. No uneven burden doth quell, but man lone be the fulcrum of this scale.Ē My view of God and man hasnít changed since I was 16 years old. We can reason perhaps from Godís use of balances in nature that God likes balances and hence morally might be a proponent of karma or of things morally being in balance (if you do good good eventually comes back to you, if you do evil, evil eventually comes back to you). Christianity has a similar notion in the idea of the day of judgement or you reap what you sow.We know that God gave man a superior brain, one capable of understanding much about the universe and one capable or admiring Godís works of nature (scientists).
What We Know About the Universe and Manís Relation to the Universe
What We Know About Manís Relation to Man (Ethics)
Christianity: Treat others as you want to be treated. This bears a relation to the notion of karma as well or the balance and reciprocity of the universe.
Comments About My Religion
I am for the most part a Deist, I worship the creator of the Universe. I cannot in good faith worship a human being as does Christianity, I believe that is the wrong approach and in fact an insult to the creator of the universe. People like Einstein, who did not believe in Judaism was a worshiper of the creator of the universe by studying how he create it. Thatís what I mean by proper worship. My bible is the science book that studies creation. Iím a supporter of Christ in the sense that I think he was a Philosopher who preached beautiful things about love and had some good points and then was brutally and unfairly murdered. Iím sorry about that. And to this day, I practice his philosophy at Christmas when I donít participate in the commercial mania of Christmas and I instead give much more than I receive (mostly to Charity). Ironically, the extreme commercialism and materialism of ďChristĒmas is the complete opposite of what Christ taught. I see a lot of ĎChristiansí loading up their SUV with big screen TVs, after wrestling them away from other potential buyers and trampling people in the process, ironically at that point they are less Christian than I am. But he was no more the son of God than is any human as a product of Godís creation. I do not, as a Deist, believe that there ever was any intervention between God and man, God created the universe and left it to run on its own, like a mechanism that through the mechanism of evolution spit out us. We are hence on our own. Any evil in the world came from mankind, not from any other source. As I said elsewhere in my Philosophy evil is uniquely human, animals donít have it and computers donít have it (although programmers can be evil). I know I live in a Christian society and hence am at odds with most of the people around me. However, there are many other religions in the world and if I lived in India with 85% Hindus I would be at odds in a different way just as if I lived in Saudi Arabia I would say I agree with their worship of Allah the creator of the universe but not for example in the Koranís treatment of women. I will always be at odds with the religions around me, as my quote ďreligiousĒ beliefs come from my observations of the universe and my Reason.
I also am a great believer in the tremendous evil of mankind. Thereís both good and evil, the product of our freedom to choose. Framing people for something they havenít done and then attacking them on the basis of the frame, a way to destroy completely innocent people, that is evil. Generating smear campaigns to cause a largely innocent person to be attacked, that is evil. I have seen the great evil and twisted thinking that humanity is capable of. I have also seen some good. In this pandemic, brave, caring nurses trying to save peopleís lives while risking their own. There is goodness too. There is great goodness and great evil in mankind, that is what my observations have told me.
Copyright Eric Wasiolek 4/16/2020