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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Nature always gets the last laugh

On Solzhenitsyn's remark “Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.”

I n his 1983 Templeton lecture, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn held atheism responsible for his country's catastrophic experience with totalitarianism. He repeated something he heard older people saying when he was a child: “Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.” He wrote:

Only the loss of that higher intuition which comes from God could have allowed the West to accept calmly, after World War I, the protracted agony of Russia as she was being torn apart by a band of cannibals, or to accept, after World War II, the similar dismemberment of Eastern Europe.

Whether one is religious or not, we look for explanations, whether unified or particularized, and since we are conscious beings we tend to assume that something powerful enough to create the universe could only be another conscious being.

Richard Dawkins, an atheist biologist, has a new book out titled Outgrowing God: A Beginner's Guide reiterating his belief that religion and science are incompatible.

But it occurs to me that everywhere the Bible mentions ‘God’ you could just as well substitute ‘the immutable laws of nature’ with almost no change in meaning. In fact, many parts of it make a lot more sense, and my fellow atheists might well consider that even if this is not actually what was meant, the two interpretations are logically equivalent.

Spelling that out would, however, double the size of that already voluminous text, so perhaps it would be easier not to. Take the Tower of Babel story. A construction project, undoubtedly using large numbers of foreign workers speaking different dialects, some no doubt using the early equivalent of that abomination called the metric system, while others using base twelve or base sixty, failed because the laws of nature dictated that these factors guaranteed it so. Spelling out all those particular causal factors would turn the story into a sociology thesis.

There are many other stories where the Israelites were unpleasantly surprised by the apparently capricious acts of their deity: the sons of Aaron, who discovered that alcohol and fire don't mix, and poor old Uzza, who got electrocuted when he touched the Ark of the Covenant. These events don't make sense for a compassionate, sentient being, but they're perfectly understandable if viewed as a personification of natural laws.

Likewise, it is not atheism per se, but attempts to circumvent and ignore the laws of nature, particu­lar­ly human nature, that bear the blame for the 20th century social catastrophes. The name “God’ is a placeholder, invented to imbue the laws of nature with an authority that people can comprehend.

When we violate the immutable laws of nature, causation turns our world into a nightmare and destroys our future. Our attempts to force nature to do what is impossible, and to attach ourselves to falsehoods in order to convince ourselves that the world is the way we would like it to be, are what led to the deaths of those millions who died under Communism and totalitarianism. They led our civilization into a death spiral from which we have still not recovered.

Today we hear about people complaining about others ‘erasing’ them by using an incorrect pronoun. These days there is no greater crime: misgendering someone is right up there with using plastic straws, rendering the perpetrator deserving of being expelled from society, spit upon, physically beaten, and ruined financially. We hear that sex is a social construct and that a child's sex is “assigned at birth.” We hear about parents who commit horrific acts on their own children in the misguided belief that they are protecting them.

These are not people ignorant of religion or of the laws of nature. They know full well that a person's physical being, and much of their character, are determined by their DNA. Two hundred years of science have spelled out in exquisite detail much of how this works. So what is happening?

Conventional religion can't protect us from false beliefs. It fails to give guidance as to whether a person should vaccinate their child if they believe it's risky, or whether they should give the child a sex change if they believe it could prevent them from committing suicide. While conventional religion provides guidance on some issues, it's not clear how it could have prevented Stalin or Hitler. Something better is needed.

Many of the false beliefs that are so widely held today were invented and held for political reasons, to create a problem that can only be solved by government regulation, thereby creating a reason for bigger government, which is the real goal of the activists. Solve the pronoun “problem,” and they'll just invent a new problem.

You can redefine words however you want, but you can't redefine biological reality because biology doesn't care what you think. Nor can you redefine social reality to circumvent human nature, any more than you can redefine down to mean up. You can have special laws that apply only to your tribe or your sex, or you can have equality. You can't have both.

At some level, people know this, so they try to change reality by changing what we perceive. Our perception is controlled by our conscious mind, and the conscious mind is controlled by what it can and cannot express. And so we get all those bizarre pseudo-words like ‘xe’ and ‘wymyn.’

That's life, I suppose. You go along, and then suddenly—poof—you're a Welshman. Or whatever else you want to be. But no matter what you pretend, what remains unchanged is nature, and nature always gets the last laugh. The other question—whether we can distinguish between a conscious deity and the laws of nature—depends on how you look at the laws of nature.

oct 13 2019, 6:32 am. edited oct 15 2019, 7:40 am

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