|NGC 604, 'Nursery of Stars,' Triangulum Galaxy.|
If the universe is infinite in terms of space, time, matter and energy, (which I think or believe but cannot prove,) then by definition, there is no starting point.
Therefore, with no beginning to account for, there is no need for a first cause, a principle if you will, nor even a Creator.
I still find it hard to wrap my brain around the concept of infinity. Everything that I see around me comes and goes, lives or dies. It has a beginning and an end. Infinity is the one thing that doesn’t exist in my immediate environment, which is still a world of extension and motion, probability and causality.
Yet having been brought up in the Catholic faith, which Richard Dawkins, the noted Atheist writer, equated or compared with ‘child abuse’ in this interview, I wonder if it did me so much harm. The remark made me think, which is good in itself. It forced me to confront the issue of the limitations of my own thinking.
For in a cosmos without a beginning and an end, there is simply no need for God to create anything. It has been there and will persist through infinity—time without end and without a beginning.
Yet any thinker in theology is already raising objections. Surely God could have co-existed ‘for time without end,’ i.e. pretty much stated somewhere in the Bible or subsequently by the Doctors of the Church.
So as a former Catholic, I find it hard to dispense with at least the possibility of some arguably ‘supernatural’ entity or power, as it exists outside of the bounds of science and knowledge as we have come to accept it.
It is hard not to think in those terms. It’s hard to think in terms of perfect objectivity, as philosophers, attempting at least to define our terms with ever-greater precision.
But it is also true that we must be humble in our relations with our brothers and sisters of other beliefs. For if it should be found or even postulated that the universe did in fact ‘begin’ at some point, in the scientific sense of forming a theory and then testing it, and if that theory should stand up over the course of some small time, then it would knock out the most basic prop of our beliefs, i.e. infinity itself. It opens up all the beginning and ending debates again.
One argument in favour of religion, and faith, is the sheer propensity and diversity of beliefs. Surely all of those people were reaching for the same thing, knowledge of the unknowable, to recognize and experience the presence of God. To take that away from them is to misunderstand tolerance. Could they all be wrong? Who am I to say, for surely I have no way of knowing. The fact that I have never had a mystical experience doesn't prove that they do not exist.
And when we talk about the universe we must remember that we are also searching for some fundamental truth that holds equally valid for all of eternity—something that we look for in such earnest and which may in itself turn out to be irrational, possibly even irrelevant.
For surely the laws of space, time, matter and energy must be infinite in duration. It is possible that moral laws are infinite in duration, without beginning or end, presumably.
One of the things that strikes me is that ants go about their daily business without speculation.
It’s a uniquely human attribute. It could be considered both a blessing and a curse—and as an atheist I find it hard to exclude theological terms and themes from much of what I do, I guess we could call them moral themes. Virtually every book or story has some kind of moral component.
That’s what sets fiction off from a catalogue or a technical manual.
As far as learning about moral themes or extrapolating great moral truths from the physical world around us, much work remains to be done.
As far as my position, while I might appear a cynic, I prefer the term 'skeptic.'
My counsel would be one of mutual tolerance and not letting the rhetoric get too heated.
Dawkins: "Religion betrayal of the intellect."
Photo: Wiki, NASA. Public Domain.