About God

God is a verb, not a noun —R. Buckminster Fuller

Preamble Judging from the shape (but not necessarily the content) of the available scientific evidence, one might be inclined to postulate the existence of a metacosmic force effectively equivalent with God. Indeed, the existence of such a god-like force, at least in a provisional sense, seems far more probable than its non-existence.

First Approximation


n the previous essay, I asked whether the physical laws or properties of the universe could in any way shed light on the ultimate nature of its origin. The answer, as reported, seems to be yes they could; and though I was expecting this, what I really wasn’t expecting was that the answer to my inquiry would effectively constitute a science-based argument for the existence of god.

fog at Helmcken Falls

Here I want to make a few general comments on the implications of this existence-of-god inference. For while it’s true that many (essentially meaningless) ontological proofs of god exist – Rene Descartes’ for one – I’m not aware that anybody has looked to the shape of the internal structure of the universe as an argument in favour of god’s existence; nor indeed has such a thing even been possible until recently.

And while it’s also true that the any claim made here for the existence of god is unlikely to swell Sunday service at a place of worship near you, and while it provides scant grist to the intelligent design mill, yet it does, I think, move the dial on how much credence one ought to accord the diatribes of people like Richard Dawkins, who maintain categorically that ours is a mechanistic universe with no god anywhere in sight.

A fatal problem with Dawkins’ categorical certainty is that it takes its authority from a strictly reductionist perspective on the universe contemplated from the “inside,” that is, without seriously considering the possibility that the universe may also, in ways far beyond human reach, be viewable from the “outside”. Now I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but elsewhere I briefly discuss the concept of emergence, that is, the idea that the whole is other than the sum of the parts. A core tenet of emergence is that a consideration of the parts provides no insights into the properties of the whole. For my part, and for what little it’s worth, it seems misguided to exclude out of hand the possibility that the universe has an “outside” very different from what is visible to us from the inside. Enough said.

All my life, and from a very young age, I’ve self-identified as agnostic verging on atheistic. And yet the default-settings argument for the existence of god constrains me to have another look at the question. Nor is this a trivial matter; for to inhabit a universe where god exists is not at all the same thing as inhabiting a universe where there is no god.

Put it this way. The shape of the universe we imagine to ourselves forms a kind of conceptual tote bag we carry around with us all our lives. Into this tote bag we toss a great number of assumptions about the world at large, as well as assumptions about our relation to the world at large. Which assumptions get tossed in and which get set aside as unworthy is determined by what we imagine the universe really “looks like”. The idea that there may be a god lurking somewhere behind the scenes, who took an active part in arranging the default settings of the physical universe in such a way as to support life – such an idea changes materially my sense of what assumptions do and do not belong in my personal tote bag; that’s all, no more than that.

Next up: About Life