Nobel Physics Prize laureate Werner Heisenberg once said “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” Something that Heisenberg understood, but which most lesser scientists do not, is that a belief in God will arise from doing science correctly. As this essay will examine, atheism is not necessarily the correct attitude to take into the natural sciences.
The scientific method begins with determining what we know for sure, and from there reaching out to what else can be stated with some degree of certainty. For instance, if a particular chemical reaction has transpired in a particular way a hundred times, we can predict with a high level of certainty that it will transpire that way one more time. From there, we can make alterations to our methodology in order to learn more.
What do we know for sure?
As it turns out, there is only one thing that a person can know 100% for sure: that they are conscious. Everything else is necessarily a matter of faith. Every belief, apart from the belief that one is conscious, is a matter of faith, because it is a statement about the material world.
All phenomena within the material world are known to be transitory, and therefore they contain an element of chaos that precludes total understanding of them. One might declare with certitude that “The Sun will rise tomorrow,” but even this is an article of faith – the Earth could be struck overnight by a gigantic comet that reduced the planet to cosmic rubble, thereby proving one wrong.
Although one might be 99.9999% sure about such predictions, one can never truly be certain, in the way that one can be certain that one is conscious. No prediction that depended on the permanence of some aspect of the material world could ever be made with 100% certainty – Heisenberg himself expressed this understanding with his Uncertainty Principle. It is certainly possible to predict that things will change (i.e. that you will die), but it is seldom possible to predict precisely when.
If one doesn’t know for sure that the material world exists, but one knows for sure that consciousness exists, then it doesn’t make logical sense to assume that the material world is the basis of reality. Consciousness can easily create the impression of a material world – it does so every night in our dreams. But there is no scientific explanation, no plausible explanation, that can demonstrate how the material world might develop consciousness. All talk of “emergent properties” is merely materialist dogma, special pleading.
Ockham’s Razor tells us that it’s more likely that consciousness dreamed up the material world and Planet Earth, in much the same way that it dreams worlds at night (an explanation that requires one step), than that the material world spawned from nowhere and evolved to be conscious (an explanation that requires hundreds, if not thousands of steps).
Therefore, there is no reason to assume that the death of the physical body ought to affect consciousness. If the material world is simply a set of phenomena that are dreamed up by consciousness, then there is no reason to assume that the death of one’s physical body ought to affect that consciousness. Therefore, there is no reason to assume that consciousness “disappears” or “dies” or even so much as changes form when the physical body dies.
The real question, then, is: of what does one become conscious upon the cessation of the temporal patterns that corresponded to one’s physical body? It isn’t easy to speculate about such things, because it depends on how laws from this world translate to the next. One thing can be said for certain though: of the next world, one will be conscious.
Ockham’s Razor can also be applied to the realm of biology to support the contention that consciousness is the prime materia.
Evolutionary science tells us very clearly that organisms do not evolve unnecessary appendages. None of limbs, organs, or parts of the brain will come into existence unless there is an evolutionary pressure that favours them. This will only be the case if those limbs, organs or parts of the brain (or early forms of them, at least) confer some kind of selective advantage. Without this advantage, there will be no selective pressure in favour of that appendage, and without that pressure it will not come to exist.
Consciousness confers no survival advantage. The human animal does not need to be aware in order to carry out any of its survival functions. All of the thoughts and calculations that the human brain performs over the course of a human life could just as well be made without consciousness. After all, a computer or android could be programmed to scan its physical environment for the sign of predators or food sources. It wouldn’t need to be conscious to do so.
If consciousness confers no survival advantage, then it cannot have been selected for by natural selection (i.e. by biological or material means). If it was not selected for by natural selection then it cannot be biological and attached to, or arising from, any part of the brain. To the contrary – the material world, including the brain, arises from consciousness.
If consciousness can dream up this world, and if it can dream up the fantastic nightscapes of our dreams, then it can dream up an infinitude of other world, realms and dimensions. And indeed it has – the entire rest of the Great Fractal is currently being explored by consciousness, in an infinitude of realms that you cannot even hope to perceive (yet).
Anything within the Great Fractal (i.e. everything that it is possible to perceive) can be dreamed up and explored by consciousness. Consciousness is infinitely creative. Consciousness can find a way to perceive anything that is perceivable. If it’s perceivable, then there’s a path to it through the Great Fractal from where consciousness currently is.
This effectively means that consciousness is omnipotent: after all, it is capable of conjuring anything from all the permutations of what’s possible.
It is often said that belief in God is a question of faith. Indeed it is. There is no possible way to prove that any being apart from oneself is conscious. All other beings could be conscious like you, or they could be programmable meatbags – and you have no way to prove otherwise. If they are conscious, that consciousness cannot be observed or measured. There is no instrument that will detect its presence or absence.
If consciousness is eternal, has the power to create anything possible, and whose presence in others is necessarily a question of faith, then consciousness is therefore God. It fulfills all of the criteria commonly attributed to God by Epicurus and others. This understanding can be arrived at scientifically, by logic, without need for faith.
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).