Monday, February 6, 2012

Beauty IS Complexity: Creation and Creating

We live on the third planet orbiting a star on
an outer arm of a spiral arm galaxy,
like this one. (Photo: NASA)
I realize that most reasonable Christians, or indeed people of any faith, aren't part of the young-earth creationism movement, or the anti-science crowd, for that matter. But a lot of people, Christian, Agnostic, Atheist, or otherwise, have trouble with responding to the following question.
How do you look at the complexity and beauty of our world and the things that live within it, and not see it as the work of an intelligent, creative designer?
As a public service, I'm going to answer that question as best I can, and go on a bit of a rant in the process.

I belong to the school of thought that science and theology are mutually exclusive disciplines. Therefore, reducing the discussion of the origins of the universe to a matter of the one or the other is skewing the discussion to one extreme answer or another. In order to come to a satisfactory answer to the question, one that is what I would call quasi-complete, one must look at the issue in the light of both disciplines.

Take as an example of the dichotomy the issue of Creation, defined as the instant of change between a state of non-existence and existence. But wait, such a definition is inadequate, as a few (to wit: Thunderf00t, AronRa) have demonstrated that Big Bang cosmology is not concerned with the creation of a universe as much as the transition from a singularity state to the discrete state. However, functionally, the beginning of a discrete universe and the creation of a universe ex nihilo are the same.

Having said that, I am inclined to believe that nothing can truly be created ex nihilo by anything operating within the same physical laws that constrain our universe, particularly the First Law of Thermodynamics. From that, I take the understanding that the not-space that proceeded the universe was composed of either matter or energy. Since matter cannot, strictly, exist without space to occupy, I therefore presuppose that there was an environment of pure energy, which is consistent with the idea of a singularity of space-time.

 It is possible to answer this question, regardless of beliefs in a God, or even a whole Pantheon of them, or even, by degrees, which God or Gods are chosen. Beauty is subjective. For me, taking the long view of it, limiting creation to the idea of God personally pulling each individual string and hand-painting things into existence cheapens the idea. Occam's razor might ultimately favour it (it is, after all, the simplest possible explanation, which is why webcomic authors often use the catch-phrase "a wizard did it" to fill plot-holes), but that doesn't invalidate hundreds of years of empirical enquiry. For me, the beauty is in the complexities. A sunset is beautiful, sure, but its implications are mind-boggling. And, whether you believe in a personal creator-god or pure and unadulterated scientific naturalism, you have to admit that the human mind is one of the most complex in the world, the most able at inductive reasoning. With such gifts as our mental faculties, it would be a shame to waste them. A true shame, perhaps the truest shame. Taking anything, from the Bible to an issue of Nature to the Lord of the Rings as-read is a enjoyable experience, certainly. But prying into the layers of meaning below the literal word often has greater implications. That's how new discoveries are made, and how we learn to go.

Jesus demonstrated for us that God likes to relate lessons as parables. It is therefore logical to assume that the bible, if it truly is God's word, should be treated as a parable. Read deeper than trying to figure out the exact age of the universe. We can measure that with far greater accuracy than the mortal men who penned the book in the first place. And that's the beauty. While the bible can be frequently falsified and contradicted by empirical evidence, no measure of science can contradict its deeper, spiritual meaning.

Therein ends the lesson: Neither pure religion, nor pure science, holds the sum of truth. The true beauty is in the complexity, in the idea that God created a universe that was all but autonomous.

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