Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How Do We Know That G-d Really Exists?

The ethos of evolution is "survival of the fittest," the theory that a species will survive only when and if it evolves a particular trait that will give it an advantage over another species. For example, we can look at a bird with a sharp beak and compare it to a bird with a round-ended beak. The sharp-beaked bird is able to crack open shells and eat their insides, consuming the majority of food with shells, leaving the round-beaked bird to eventually die out. In line with the evolutionary mode of thought, a species does not survive if it inherits a trait that will prevent it from surviving, and if it has that particular trait, then it survives.

The same people that state that the theoretical model of evolution is the replacement of belief in G-d basically do not realize that, if humans' existence can be attributed to evolution, then the formation of the human ability to perceive the existence of G-d (and deities in general) is just as well an evolutionary development. In other words, our ability to perceive the existence of deities is very much so an evolutionary development.

We are forced to examine this; do useless evolutionary developments, or mutations, occur in nature, and furthermore, does a species survive even with such a mutation?

The answer that most will say is "Yes," a species can survive, and many do, with mutations (or in other words, some sort of change in the species).We must look at the human ability to perceive the existence of G-d through the lens of evolution and wonder if the (complicated) human mind has somehow "found" a way to create the illusion of G-d within the mind in a world which is actually void of it. Again, if a development occurs in a species that does not benefit it, the species will die out, so do we conclude that the human ability to perceive G-d is a trait that causes it to survive? If we are to define the human being as a complicated animal, then we must view "faith," "spirituality," or "religion" as evolutionary traits, just as the bird with the sharp beak.

Furthermore, we cannot pretend that something such as evolution, a process but in no way a living, conscious thing, could have ever created anything. Rather, atheists illuminate an interesting paradox, they speak of evolution as having "created" life and somehow developing it from simple to complex forms. Again, the assumption here is one of intelligence and control, that a force of understanding exists beyond the evolutionary process, one that is physically invisible yet can be empirically identified through the effects of development. What we see here is staggering; atheists speaking about evolution in very similar terms that theists use to speak about G-d's Creation (hence the need for atheists to attempt to distance evolution and G-d from each other as much as possible). What is going on here; what mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are being fulfilled by evolution to the atheist and by G-d to the theist? Indeed, our beliefs and theories expose similar needs; human needs, and these needs strongly imply a human connection to something larger.

Interestingly enough, it's not the first time in human history that people have believed in one thing as an attempt to believe in something larger. The Talmud, in the section describing the nature of idol worship, explains that the people who worshipped various idols did so in hopes of connecting to the highest form of transcendence possible. In other words, they exhalted physical images around them, and the human form, and worshipped them as deities in order to break out of the limited and limiting human psyche and to enter the realm of the transcendent. The Talmud explains that they perceived the Oneness inherent to all existence, but it was so massive, great, and awe-inspiring, that they assumed that they could honor It by honoring its Creations. Once they did that, they moved from honoring the Creations to worshipping them, hence introducing a mental, spiritual, and theological disruption between them and It. Only by developing a direct connection to it could they achieve purity of spirituality - there is no intermediary between man and G-d; no force, no lesser diety, no object, and no man.

The Torah also describes G-d as a white light, and the breakdowns in understanding G-d's nature as various colors of light, in the same way that a rainbow is actually the breakdown of pure light into different wavelengths. Using the light analogy, each of the various deities is not a deity in and of itself, but rather it is an element of G-d, an aspect of Him seperated and distinguished from the whole, but imagined and manifested as an individual god or goddess. The allure of such practices is clear, for it doesn't necessarily seem evil due to its association with G-d. However, when the whole of G-d is broken into many disparate pieces, separated, and each one is viewed as a whole in and of itself, causing it to be imagined according to the abilities and tendencies of the human mind and manifested as such, and existing as an opposite from other deities, it led to the birth of some gruesome religious practices.

For example, the Torah recounts the Midians whom worshipped a deity named "Ba'al of Pe'or." Worship of this god was carried out when its worshippers defecated for it, or the priests of Molech (another deity) when they "walked their children through the fires," or in other words, sacrificed their children to Molech by burning them. When the unified source of everything is broken into pieces and each piece is viewed individually and imagined as such, when people insist that the transcendent source of existence can be anything, then any divine manifestation is possible. At this juncture, no rules of logic determine the manifestation of this god or goddess; the most primitive human urges, tendencies, and wants surface to the forefront as expressive forms of these deities and in the form of the deity's desires.As science has progressed, the gods and goddesses have died, filtered by time and knowledge, if you will; but G-d is pervasive. In the terms of evolution, they have become extinct, did not develop the necessary traits for survival, passed away and have been replaced by something better; this is because they do not really exist and therefore are not able to perpetuate their own survival.

The belief in evolution is a product of the noble human effort to strive for something bigger, to not be fooled by the matrix which we call our perception, and to stubbornly scratch at reality until we have removed the veils of illusion and revealed the truth. However, it shoots high, but only as high as the lower stars; it assumes that nothing floats above them and therefore ends it search there. This is humans' 20th century scientific mind's version of the Talmud's description of idolatry; we perceive the absolute height of transcendence, but are content with believing (and running our lives by) the notion that our efforts should end short of its pinnacle, or in this case, that evolution is more believable and less lofty than the belief in G-d, and even though it is not truth, it's easier to come by and less demanding. It's chic spirituality, it's cool religion, it's fun faith; it's a vivid painting stretching to all corners, not a blank canvas, it's lauging gas, not oxygen, it's Pepsi, not water. Science and the vastness of the universe to which it connects us is awe-inspiring and humbling, and "awe" and "humility" are religious/spiritual emotions.

In other words, we have our pie and eat it too; we gain access to some spirituality, just enough to hold us over, but do not have to change our lives or patterns too drastically. But "jack of all trades, master of none," applies here; we have some form of spirituality, but have not mastered it, and we are somewhat detached from a spiritual existence, but not completely.

But what if we need that connection so desperately that our minds have created that larger thing, whatever it is? Assuming that G-d does not exist, how can we account for the human's ability to perceive that He does? Is it a genetic function of evolution that causes the human brain to give the person the illusion that G-d actually exists, even though He is not real, for his or her own sake?We can say that a mind that perceives things that are not really there is in a state of illness and needs to be healed, for there are such mental conditions as schizophrenia, which cause incredible suffering in the individual's mind that has it.Yet billions of mentally healthy people world-wide believe in the existence of G-d (and even gods), and furthermore, that this belief manifests itself positively in their lives and gives them purpose, joy, and direction, essentially making them mentally healthier. Is belief in G-d then, a "happy schizophrenia," a fluke of nature that causes people to believe that there is a living Source outside of them with Its own will that intervenes in their lives and tells them what to do?

Furthermore, humans are extremely social "animals," and therefore, this belief can be transmitted and taught from one intelligent ape to the other, from parent ape to child ape, from teacher ape to student ape, from religious leader ape to religious student ape, and therefore forms what we call "civilization."Then perhaps the human belief in G-d is a form of social conditioning. However, this does not account for the fact that humanity still believes in G-d, so even though it is taught, we must wonder how we went from apes that could not fathom G-d to human beings that could. How can we have ideas?

But again, our ability to perceive "invisible" things is uniquely human; we can perceive many things that do not really exist, such as Snoopy and Barbie. Snoopy exists only on paper and Barbie as a disfigure of what women should look like, but they don't really exist. If this is true, how can we say that to believe in G-d is not exactly the same thing, except on a magnificently huge scale?

The answer is fairly simple; most people, even though they read Snoopy to their children and buy them Barbie's, therefore accepting them as mental models, are keenly aware that they do not really exist, that they are just figments of the human imagination. They do not, for one instance, believe that Snoopy or Barbie could have created the world, knowing that it was humans that created them, and they do not believe that Snoopy or Barbie communicate with them, connecting them to a higher plane of existence.Therefore, we are left with the distinct realization that spirituality is real, but cannot attribute it to any of these man-made things, and therefore are left to ponder the whereabouts of its source. How is it that an unconscious force of nature has designed a mental structure to help us survive, is taught to us through our society, felt in the core of the human experience (psyche, mind, our soul), is understood as a literal (but not physical) living Being, and yet does not really exist? How can the human mind create an "alter ego" within it, which can be shared by every single individual, and yet see to it that the human being continues to function in mentally healthy manner, healthier actually? Even those that, through their rational and conscious ability to, decide to reject that such a Being exists, it is left indivertibly on their soul. After considering these things, we are forced to grapple with the notion that G-d most definitely does exist, a rather perplexing, awe-inspiring, and ultimately moving recognition.