Thursday 2 February 2012

Hitchens was wrong on this

Christopher Hitchens once wrote: “Everybody does have a book in them
but in most cases that's where it should stay!” Though he was a writer
and author with whom I most often than not profoundly disagreed, his
death at 62 just a few days before Christmas leaves a sadly vacant
spot at the table of public discourse in our time. He was forceful in
debate, witty in conversation, and eloquently contrary on a wide range
of conventional opinions. He will be missed.

However, while his atheist manifesto, the book God is Not
Great—presented with all the fervour of an ardent new
convert—succeeded in making many valid criticisms of religion in
general, his central thesis was greatly mistaken. God, the ultimate
source and ground of  not just this universe but of untold,  as-yet
unknown, universes beyond, is not only “great” but greater by a
zillion degrees than anything our limited minds  or technologies can
ever possibly conjure up.

My reason for believing that atheism is today a wholly untenable
position is not because of something I read in the Bible or in the
other religiously-inspired books I have read in my lifetime. It's
because of what modern scientists, the cosmologists, the
astrophysicists, the consciousness researchers, and the theoretical
physicists are saying. I would recommend, for example, The Conscious
Universe by Dean Radin of the Noetic Institute or Science and The
Akashic Field by the Nobel Prize nominee, Ervin Laszlo.
The most amazing thing about the universe as we now know it is the
fine tuning of the physical constants behind the structure and
coherence of  everything else. For example, if the expansion of the
early universe had been one-billionth less than it was, the universe
would have re-collapsed almost at once; and if it had been
one-billionth more, it would have flown apart so fast that it could
have produced only cold, dilute gases. Similarly, a small difference
in the strength of the electromagnetic field relative to the
gravitational field would have prevented the existence of hot and
stable stars like the Sun and hence the evolution of life on the
planets associated with such stars.

Laszlo points out that if the difference between the mass of the
neutron and the proton were not precisely twice the mass of the
electron,no substantial chemical reactions could take place at all. If
the electric charge of electrons and protons did not balance
precisely, all configurations of matter would be unstable and the
universe would consist of nothing more than radiation and a relatively
uniform mixture of gases.

Laszlo notes that the fine-tuning he describes (at much greater
length) involves upward of thirty key factors and a remarkable degree
of accuracy. He concludes, not from faith but from hard and astounding
facts that “a universe such as ours – with galaxies and stars, and
life on this and presumably other life-supporting planets  - is not
likely to have come about as a matter of serendipity, i.e. pure
chance.” In other words, “random fluctuations among individual atoms”
can never provide a scientifically plausible solution.

Frankly, when I consider the amount of  confidence in sheer
coincidence required by atheism in the face of  the latest scientific
findings about the origin and nature of the universe I realize I
simply don't have and never will the amount of faith such a leap
demands. Sorry about that, Hitch.

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