John Fishwick

Science, Literature, Art, Philosophy, Logic

Month: April 2016

EXISTENCE BY INFERENCE

EXISTENCE BY INFERENCE                                            JOHN FISHWICK

 

Earth-based optical telescopes and the Kepler space probe have identified several hundred planets orbiting stars or suns elsewhere in our galaxy. Most of these planets are too large or too close to their parent star to support the kind of life that we have here on Earth. We can’t actually see these planets –we detect their presence by inference in two main ways. First, if the observed star undergoes a slight wobble, as indeed our own sun would do were it to be observed by some alien civilization several light years from us, then it would be reasonable to conclude that this wobble was caused by the gravitational force produced by orbiting planets. Earth’s wobble is caused mainly by Jupiter and Saturn. Second, if the planets pass on a line of sight between Earth and the star being observed then we can measure a slight dimming of light as the planets cross the face of their sun. Bear with me for a while, I’ll eventually get to the point.

As with the planets, no one has actually seen or talked to God, so we must rely on inference to ascertain His existence. Let’s look at planet Earth to see if it is a suitable gift to us from a divine creator.

Earth was born some 4.5 billion years ago in violence. In its early years it was a violent place being bombarded regularly by asteroids, one of the larger ones knocking off a piece of the Earth to produce our moon. In our geological history, Earth has experienced at least five major extinctions, caused by asteroid strikes or volcanoes, in which over 90% of species then living died. The largest of these occurred at the end of the Permian period as evidenced by a drastic reduction of fossils found in the rocks of the early Triassic period.

Since the evolution of homo sapiens, our planet has been, and continues to be, raked by powerful hurricanes and tornadoes and ripped apart by earthquakes. Hundreds of thousands of humans have died as a result and many more have been slaughtered by religious conflicts. The list of disasters is too long to be given here. Besides, they have been well covered in previous issues of this magazine.

And then there is infantile carcinoma.

So, is it logical to conclude that Earth was a gift to us from an all-powerful and all-loving God?

I think not.

A final word on Pascal’s Wager, in which it pays to hedge your bets and believe in God in case He is found to really exist after the final judgment day. If you decide to believe for this reason, don’t you think that He will see through your little scheme?

RELIGION

RELIGION                                           March 6, 2016

 

Books and articles about religion number in the hundreds of thousands but I think that the essence of

subject can be distilled into two questions:  Do you believe in God?  And:  Are you a person of faith?

The first question should really be:  Do you believe that there is a God who is All-Knowing, All-Powerful,

and All-Loving?

To answer this first question only requires a cursory knowledge of the origin of our universe and the

history of all living organisms on our planet. Our universe, solar system, and planet Earth were all born

in violence and in a few billion years will all die in violence. In between this birth and death, our planet

has experienced, and will again experience, many natural and man-made disasters that have

devastated planet Earth and its inhabitants.  Natural disasters include those produced by asteroid

strikes, volcanic action, earthquakes, and diseases. Several major extinctions have killed off up to 90% of

organisms living at that time.  Since the appearance of homo sapiens, we have seen countless man-

made disasters including more or less constant warfare and appalling bestiality, perhaps the worst of

which was the holocaust caused by one of our more civilized nations. There is no evidence that our

future will be any better. In fact, current events suggest that it may be worse, much worse.

The second question about faith requires a definition. Faith is a belief in something without supporting

evidence. It is, perhaps, best addressed by asking another question:  Would you want your taxi driver,

your lawyer, your doctor, your financial adviser, your senator, or your president to make decisions based

on faith or on reason and logic?

Those who have considered the above and still believe in the existence of an All-Knowing, All-Powerful,

All-Loving God, who could have prevented these natural and man-made disasters, but did not,

demonstrate a somewhat interesting and warped view of reason and logic. Please don’t tell me that

“God works in mysterious ways.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is another view:  Deism.  Evidently several of our founding fathers were deists, who believed in a

God that created the universe and humans and then stepped aside and let us get on with it.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of spending and afternoon with Martin Gardner, a polymath

who was regarded by some as having the best mind of the 20th century. Martin was a deist.

But surely an All-Knowing, All-Loving God would not have retired having created the Earth and its

Inhabitants knowing what the future had in store for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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