Not at OddCon: The "God" panel
I was asked to send along some thoughts on one of the panels I was scheduled to be on but can't make. I thought some of my thoughts on the nature of what God might be like were enough fun to share.
The first question posed was: "How have fundamentalist religions had to adapt since it was grudgingly accepted that Earth is not the center of the universe, and may be older than 3000 years?"
My answer is, I don't see that they have accepted anything. There may be adaptation, but it has been in trying to co-opt and confuse scientific ideas to try to continue to fight the battle. Conservative religious forces have expended great amounts of energy in redressing what used to be called "creation science" as "intelligent design theory," and trying to influence textbook and teacher tactics by the false flag "teach the controversy" argument. They continue to pressure textbook publishers, state and local school boards, and state legislatures to adopt requirements that creation theory be taught and evolution theory minimized. Critics of evolution have adopted modern methods to get their message across: Besides Wikipedia, the top result on a Google search for "intelligent design" is a pro-ID website that purports to promote "objectivity" in teaching "origins science." That the forces of religious reaction are intent on continuing the fight is nowhere more apparent than at the $27 million "Creation Museum", http://www.creationmuseum.org/
which purports to explain how the fossil and geological records are not inconsistent with the Bible being literally true. If you are not familiar with it, I strongly recommend SF writer John Scalzi's wonderfully snarky photo tour found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scalzi/sets/72157603091357751
As for Earth's place in the "center of the universe" as a side note, I think that is less of an issue. For one thing, I don't believe that's in the Bible anywhere, so the Biblical inerrancy proponents don't have a line in the sand to defend like they do on origin of species.
Second, I think that most of the evolution deniers don't have a sufficient grasp of cosmology to attempt to refute findings such as "There is no centre of the universe! According to the standard theories of cosmology, the universe started with a "Big Bang" about 14 billion years ago and has been expanding ever since. Yet there is no centre to the expansion. It is the same everywhere. The Big Bang should not be visualized as an ordinary explosion. The universe is not expanding out from a centre into space. The whole universe itself is expanding and it is doing so equally at all places, as far as we can tell." http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/GR/centre.html
which is a pretty mind-boggling concept even for science geeks.
However, I think those same people correctly assume that most of the people they are preaching to don't understand it either, so the subject can safely be ignored.
That doesn't mean some people won't try to mischaracterize the evidence: the site at http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/0807tj.asp
attempts to argue that precisely because everything we can see is moving away from us, we must be at the center. ("The odds for the Earth having such a unique position in the cosmos by accident are less than one in a trillion. The problem for big bang theorists is that they suppose the cosmos was not created but happened by accident—by chance, natural processes. Such naturalistic processes could not have put us at a unique center, so atheistic cosmologists have sought other explanations, without notable success so far.")
So, the battle is still on and being fought, as most long wars are, with new weapons developed in the course of the conflict.
BTW: I intentionally use the construction "evolution deniers," as in "Holocaust deniers," since I consider both movements to be on an intellectual and ethical par and with a common goal of obscuring the truth.
The rather more fun question is: "What are the qualifications for being God?"
The classical attributes of God are
• omnipotence, and
That is, the true God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-pervasive (i.e., everywhere at once).
I can break this down further, in that being all-knowing is sufficient and in fact includes the other two. After all, if you are all-knowing, then you know how to accomplish anything you desire and how to gain access to the means to do it, so, if you are all-knowing, you are effectively all-powerful. (I admit this is subject to debate and hope the panelists will have some fun kicking this around.)
If you are all-knowing, then you know everything that happens everywhere, all the time ("not a sparrow falls," etc.) then you are effectively everywhere at one by means of "virtual presence." However, the most interesting corollary of omniscience is that it also supports another classical attribute of God: uniqueness. That is, there can be one and only one True God. If you are truly omniscient, you know everything that can be known, including the entire contents of every other mind in the Universe. If there were more than one omniscient being in the Universe, each one would completely and totally comprehend and contain the other's mind, meaning that both minds would have to contain an absolutely congruent set of data. Since we understand personality to be an artifact of the mind's contents, the two beings would effectively be one being, sharing one mind. With perfect knowledge, all action would be guided by the same data and parameters, resulting in the same action. So any incidence of more than one omniscient mind effectively still means only one omniscient mind.
This does result in some interesting speculations, including an argument for the Trinity, in that it could explain how God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit could all simultaneously be God, but in separate manifestations.
Alternatively, the concept holds out hope for those spiritual paths who hold that the eventual goal of the soul is to reunite with God, since an eventual sufficient degree of enlightenment will bring about that result inevitably.