I don't want this post to take precedence over my first letter
on the subject of god, from earlier, but I really wanted to blog this.
First, I always go a very layman's route when dealing with the religious claim "you can't get something from nothing" (though they always seem to ignore that god made the universe from nothing, so they're asserting something they know to be impossible). It's just as effective (more so, really) for the sake of argument to parry this canard by pointing out that god himself is a "something," so the religious person already believes that something (in fact, a VERY highly ordered something) can come from nothing. Now, we know we have matter and the laws of physics, so why not just say those things always existed? Without a reason to believe that the additional variable of god is necessary to the equation, Occam's Razor cuts him right out (along with pixies, unicorns, etc.)
Were I less interested in saving time and trying to communicate, I would point out that on the surface it appears you cannot get something from nothing, but that something comes from nothing all the time in this universe. Almost all of the mass in an atom consists of virtual particles that are continually popping in and out of existence. It's just a pain in the ass to explain a concept like space-time (even an abbreviated introduction could take hours) to people who usually wouldn't know science if it bent them over and fucked them. Baby steps.
I'm thinking about this because a physicist friend of mine sent me this article
Physicists have now confirmed that the apparently substantial stuff [matter] is actually no more than fluctuations in the quantum vacuum.
This is huge. And it also has implications for what we anticipate to find with the LHC (if you're unfamiliar with the Large Hadron Collider, I posted an entry about it
ages ago). If we find a Higgs Boson Particle, as we expect to, it will provide us with a working explanation for how this universe could have originated as a field of fundamental chaos without any need to appeal to a god (as if such a need existed anyway). This, more than anything, is why religious people who know about this project have been freaking out about it.
Right now, we know that time is virtual. How most of us perceive "time", rather than how it actually functions as a part of relative distance (space-time), is kind of like an illusion. What this work means is that, should we find a Higgs Boson Particle, we will know that more than just time is virtual...
The Higgs field creates mass out of the quantum vacuum too, in the form of virtual Higgs bosons
. So if the LHC confirms that the Higgs exists, it will mean all reality
Yup, reality. Matter. This includes your computer, your desk, your house...your mom (zing!), your cat...
All of it is just a fluctuation in a cosmological piece of fabric. Of course, in a more poetic sense, we atheists have always suspected this, and we have been tailoring our little piece of reality and embroidering it with our own purpose ever since we awoke to the possibility of doing so (some may say the necessity of doing so). We do not need an overarching cosmic significance to find meaning as a ripple in space time, we only need "existence", whatever that word winds up meaning.
Follow the link to the article. You may not understand it, but you don't have to. If you took the right classes and read enough of the right materials, you would. This is how the bible could
read. If god exists, this is what the koran could
look like. Concise explanations, spelled out with evidence. No way to reach any other conclusion (ever notice how there are not different "sects" or Astronomers or no such thing as Muslim Arithmetic versus Christian Arithmetic?), and no need for excuses or symbolic stories about magic. Instead this one piece, which explains much more about the nature of reality than all of the bible, was authored by a synthesis of mortals who wanted answers and found them where all answers about reality have been gathered: within a mind tempered by reason and observing the world around us. Not in a holy book. Faith has never given us a single explanation, and neither has any god.
Read the article. It's brilliant. It's beautiful
. If a god exists, he is surely unworthy of man who is capable of such a thing. How can people find Christianity beautiful when they are surrounded by a world of unimaginable surprises? I wonder about this when I look at the stars.