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Dr. Hameer's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Dr. Hameer

I didn't know where to post this, but I guess here would be appropriate. The following is BY FAR the best critique of The God Delusion I have read. It resonates with the true spirit of science which is not to disprove the existence of God, but rather to inquire as honestly as possible into the nature of reality (whatever that may be).

Let us not throw any chairs at each other. This is food for thought for all of Dawkins' fans (myself being one of them) and let us remember a wise saying which goes something like this:

"Do not read to accept or to reject, but rather to weigh and consider". Enjoy!

The God Delusion? Part 1

Deepak Chopra - November 15, 2006

Recently there have been a spate of books about God from scientists responding to the debate over intelligent design that flared up last year. These books raise a chorus of skepticism that God exists, most in no uncertain terms. Science stands for rational thought, faith for superstition and unreason. The latest bestseller in this vein is Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion," and since I had the chance to debate Dawkins on Channel 4 in England, I wanted to pick up the subject here.

Dawkins has written extensively on evolution, holds a chair at Oxford University, and speaks out loudly against any possibility that God is real. He makes many points to support his claim that religion is nonsense and that there isn't the slightest shred of rational proof for God, miracles, the soul, etc. Since this is such an important issue, I want to argue against him point by point in some detail.

1. Science is the only valid way to gain knowledge. Nothing about God is needed to explain the world. Eventually science will uncover all mysteries. Those that it can't explain don't exist.

This is the bedrock of Dawkins' argument, as it is of most skeptics and scientific atheists. In his new book Dawkins expresses his position with deep disdain for those who disagree, and his poisonous tone weakens his argument. Yet there's no doubt that with current advances in genetics and brain research, scientists have more confidence than ever that mysteries are being unraveled as never before. By the same token, something as primitive as faith in God looks more and more pointless and misguided. At best God is a matter of personal belief, at worst a superstition that blocks progress (in the way the Bush Administration uses theology to block stem-cell research).

The unfairness of this argument is that it squeezes God into a corner. Dawkins makes it an us-versus-them issue. Either you are for science (that is, reason, progress, modernism, optimism about the future) or you are for religion (that is, unreason, reactionary resistance to progress, clinging to mysteries that only God can solve). He goes so far as to tar anyone who believes in God with the same brush as extreme religious fanatics. Sadly, the media often follow his lead, erasing the truth, which is that many scientists are religious and many of the greatest scientists (including Newton and Einstein) probed deep into the existence of God. Not to mention the obvious fact that you don't have to go to church, or even belong to a religion, to find God plausible.

But let's leave Dawkins' heated and unfair rhetoric aside. Is science the only route to knowledge? Obviously not. I know that my mother loved me all her life, as I love my own children. I feel genius in great works of art. None of this knowledge is validated by science. I have seen medical cures that science can't explain, some seemingly triggered by faith. The same is true of millions of other people. I know that I am conscious and have a self, even though Dawkins--along with many arch materialists--doesn't believe that consciousness is real or that the self is anything but a chemical illusion created in the brain. By Dawkins’ reasoning a mother’s love is no more real than God as neither can be empirically quantified.

A materialist could conceivably analyze the brain functions of a Mozart or Beethoven down to the last synaptic firing, but that would tell us nothing about why music exists, why it is beautiful, where great symphonies come from, why inspiration uplifts the listener, or in fact any relevant thing about the meaning of music. The world in general has meaning, deep meaning at times. This cannot be dismissed as a delusion, an artifact of chemicals. Beauty and meaning can be known independent of a biochemical analysis.

The same analogy comes to mind whenever one hears that brain research will eventually explain all human thought and behavior. If a scientist could map every molecule in a radio as it was playing the Beethoven Fifth, there would be a complete diagram of the symphony at the level of matter. But the radio isn't Beethoven. It isn't his mind, and a diagram of Beethoven's brain, which would also be at the level of matter, is equally futile to explain what his mind was like except in the crudest terms.

For thousands of years human beings have been obsessed by beauty, truth, love, honor, altruism, courage, social relationships, art, and God. They all go together as subjective experiences, and it's a straw man to set God up as the delusion. If he is, then so is truth itself or beauty itself. God stands for the perfection of both, and even if you think truth and beauty (along with love, justice, forgiveness, compassion, and other divine qualities) can never be perfect, to say that they are fantasies makes no sense.

Science knows about objective reality, the mask of matter that our five senses detects. But the mind goes beyond the five senses, and it does Dawkins no good to lump the two worlds of inner and outer together. In fact, insofar as brain research can locate centers of activity that light up whenever a person feels love or pleasure or sexual arousal, these subjective states leave objective traces behind. That makes them more real, not less. In the same way, the brain lights up when a person feels inspired or close to God; therefore, we may be getting closer to the connection between inner and outer states, not further away.

This is only the outline of an argument against science as the only valid route to knowledge. Before going on to Dawkins' other points, let's see what responders have to say.

The God Delusion (Part 2)

Deepak Chopra - November 17, 2006

In the continuing debate between science and religion, Richard Dawkins makes another sweeping claim.

2. God is unnecessary. Science can explain Nature without any help from supernatural causes like God. There is no need for a Creator.

To many people this argument sounds convincing because they believe in science and find God hard to believe in. But Dawkins has pulled the same trick that he resorts to over and over. This is the us-versus-them trick. Either you think there is a personal God, a superhuman Creator who made the world according to the Book of Genesis, or you are a rational believer in the scientific method.

This assumption is false on several grounds. The most basic one is that God isn't a person. In a certain strain of fundamentalist Christianity God looks and acts human, and creating the world in six days is taken literally (Dawkins refers to such believers as 'clowns,' not worth the bother except to ridicule them). But God isn't a person in any strain of Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, the branch of Hinduism known as Vedanta, and many denominations of Christianity--he's not a person in the Gospel of John in the New Testament.

Therefore, reducing God to a Sunday school picture and claiming that the Book of Genesis--or creationism in general--competes with science isn't accurate. Fundamentalism hasn't played a role in scientific debate for generations. Einstein pointed out that he didn't believe in a personal God but was fascinated by how an orderly universe and its physical laws came about.

Nor is it fair to present God as a Creator standing somewhere outside the universe. Dawkins ridicules this notion by saying that such a God didn't need to create the cosmos through the Big Bang and billions of years of evolution. He could have created it whole and perfect to begin with. Thus if we observe evolution at work--as of course we do--then God is irrelevant and unnecessary.

This attempt to second-guess God again reduces him to a person who thinks like a human being and would carry out creation the way a smart scientist would--a Richard Dawkins, for example. God, if he exists, is universal, existing at all times and places, pervading creation both inside the envelope of space-time and outside it. To use a word like "He" has no validity, in fact; we are forced into it by how language works. A better word would be 'the All," which in Sanskrit is Brahman and Allah in Islam. Not every language is stuck with He or She.

So at bottom, the real question is this: Do we need an all-pervading intelligence to explain the universe? Forget the image of God sitting on a throne, forget Genesis, forget the straw man of a Creator who isn't as smart as a smart human being. The real debate is between two world views:

1. The universe is random. It operates entirely through physical laws. There is no evidence of innate intelligence.

2. The universe contains design. Physical laws generate new forms that display intention. Intelligence is all-pervasive.

The second worldview can be called religious, but it's a trap to say that only a Christian God explains intelligence in the universe. There is room for a new paradigm that preserves all the achievements of science--as upheld by the first worldview--while giving the universe meaning and significance. Dawkins shows no interest in uniting these two perspectives (he disdains the whole notion of a religious scientist), but many of is colleagues do.

Before talking about such a synthesis, let's see what responders think. Is God an all or nothing proposition as Dawkins claims? Must science absolutely exclude God in any form?

The God Delusion? Part 3

Deepak Chopra - November 20, 2006

One of the reasons that Dawkins' book has touched a nerve is that many scientists are outraged by the religious tide in world affairs. Using theology as a shield, politicians are undermining the whole rational structure of scientific progress. This bring us to another major point for Dawkins.

3. The universe is a complex machine whose workings are steadily being demystified by science. Any other way of viewing the world is superstitious and reactionary.

What is so strange about this argument is that Dawkins himself is totally reactionary. His defense of a material universe revealing its secrets ignores the total overthrow of materialism in modern physics. There is no world of solid objects; space-time itself depends upon shaping forces beyond both space and time. The notion that Dawkins stands for progress while religion stands for anti-progress may be true in a broad social sense. Nobody would pick a Baptist preacher to lead the human genome project.

But arch materialism is just as superstitious as religion. Someone like Dawkins still believes there are solid objects randomly colliding to haphazardly form more and more complex objects, until over the course of billions of years the universe produced human DNA with its billions of genetic bits.

What's wrong with this argument is that if you trace DNA down to its individual atoms, each is more than 99.9999% empty space. If you take an individual electron, it has no fixed position in either time or space. Rather, ghostly vibrations wink in and out of the universe thousands of times per second, and what lies beyond the boundary of the five senses holds enormous mysteries.

Enough mysteries, in fact, to be consistent with God. I don't mean a personal God or a mythic one or any God with a human face. Set aside all images of God. What we observe once we get over the superstition of materialism (a superstition Dawkins defends to the last degree) is that random chance is one of the worst ways to explain how the universe evolved.

--The various constants in nature, such as gravity and the speed of light, are too precisely fitted with each other for this to happen by chance.
--If any one of six constants had been off by less than a millionth of 1 percent, the material universe couldn't exist.
--Events at opposite ends of the universe are paired with each other, so that a change in the spin of one electron immediately produces a twin effect in another electron. This ability to communicate instantly across millions of light years cannot be explained by materialism. It defies all notions of cause and effect. it defies chance.
--Every electron in the universe exists as a wave function that is everywhere at once. When this wave function collapses, we observe a specific isolated electron. Before the wave collapses, however, matter is non-local.

The ability of objects and events to be everywhere at once seems like an attribute of God--omnipresence. The ability of electrons separated by millions of light years to 'talk' to each other seems like another attribute of God--omniscience. This doesn't mean that God explains the universe. It means that there may be governing forces at work which allow the existence of universal consciousness. The self-aware universe is a plausible theory. Many writers have described it, although Dawkins disdains such theories.

If the universe is self-aware, it would explain the formation of a self-replicating molecule like DNA far more elegantly than the clumsy, crude mechanism of random chance. As the astronomer Fred Hoyle declared the probability that random chance created life is roughly the same as the probability that a hurricane could blow through a junkyard and create a Boeing 707.

Before proceeding with the next step in refuting the anti-God position, let's pause to see what responders think. Do you think a random universe of concrete objects colliding by chance is the right model for creation?

November 23, 2006
Dear friends,
I want to thank the responders who pointed out that Fred Hoyle, the British astronomer who invented the phrase Big Bang, nevertheless opposed the notion of an expanding universe. I remembered one fact and forgot the other. My apologies.

The God Delusion? Part 4

Deepak Chopra - November 24, 2006

At a certain point we must leave Dawkins behind, since he is riding a hobby horse. He feels compelled to attack the onslaught of irrational forces that pose a crisis to the very existence of science. I doubt the crisis is so dire. Without screaming that the sky is falling down, one can say that two broad rivers of human experience have run into each other. One river carries science and objective observation of the world. The other river carries subjective experience and our craving for meaning, beauty, love, and truth.

There is no reason why these two rivers need to be separated, and what we are seeing--despite Dawkins' hysterical defense of materialism--is a merging. With a generation there will be accepted theories that integrate the world 'out there' with the world 'in here.'

This brings us to another of Dawkins' major points.

4. The universe is neither intelligent nor conscious. Science doesn't need those ingredients to explain Nature and its workings. Starting with atoms and molecules governed by strict physical laws, we will eventually explain everything.

This argument has to be made in a very loud voice with total conviction to sound plausible. Dawkins holds that humans are conscious because chemicals randomly collide in the brain to produce a phantom we ignorantly call the mind. This is a fashionable view and in fact is the logical outcome of arch materialism. Where else could mind come from if not molecules, assuming that molecules are the basis of the brain and therefore of reality itself?

Common sense finds it hard to take this argument seriously, because it leads to nonsense. The brain contains an enormous amount of water and salt. Are we to assume that water is intelligent, or salt is conscious? If they aren't, then we must assume that throwing water and salt together--along with about six other basic building blocks of organic chemicals--suddenly makes them intelligent. The bald fact is that Dawkins defends an absurd position because he can't make the leap to a different set of assumptions.

--Consciousness is part of existence. It wasn't created by molecules.
--Intelligence is an aspect of consciousness.
--Intelligence grows as life grows. Both evolve from within.
--The universe evolved along intelligent lines.

I realize that I've dropped a bomb into the discussion. The instant the word 'intelligent' comes up, skeptics rush in to shout that one is defending Intelligent Design, which is a stalking horse for creationism, which is a stalking horse for fundamentalist Christianity, which is a stalking horse for Jesus as the one and only son of God. Such is the heated climate of debate at the moment, and Dawkins takes full (unfair) advantage of it. Only Jesus freaks could possibly believe in an intelligent universe.

However, if consciousness is innate in the universe, so is intelligence. That absolutely has nothing to do with God sitting on a throne in heaven creating Adam and Eve. If we remain sane and clear-headed, the reason to assume that consciousness exists is simple. There's no other way to account for it. Without a doubt there is enormous design, complexity, organization, and interconnectedness everywhere in Nature. You can either say "I see it, let me explain it" or you can say "Ignore it, it's just a byproduct of randomness."

Consciousness isn't just plausible as part of Nature, it's totally necessary. Not just to keep God around but to keep science around. That will be the next stage of the discussion. First I'd like to hear responders' views. Do you think you are conscious and intelligent, or are you being fooled by random chemical reactions inside your skull?

The God Delusion? Part 5

Deepak Chopra - November 27, 2006

Science has progressed through experiments that convince people about the truth through verified results. If it's true that consciousness is everywhere in Nature--a basic tenet if you want to prove that God exists--there needs to be an experiment to prove it. Materialists argue

that no such experiments exist and therefore no claim for either consciousness or intelligence is believable. Life proceeds by chance, adaptation, and survival. That's the creed of Darwin, who single-handedly stripped Nature of everything having to do with intention, purpose, and intelligence as a guiding force. In Dawkins' view there's no need to alter this stroke of radical surgery.

This can be stated as another major point.

5. Consciousness is a byproduct of matter. Its existence has no other explanation.

There are many philosophical ways to cast doubt on this statement, but since science believes in experiments, here is one. It's a thought experiment. Einstein came up with the theory of relativity through a thought experiment, so it's completely valid as science to do experiments in your head.

Think of a yellow flower. Can you see it? Are you sure of the color and the fact that it's a flower and not a fish that you can see? If so, then the experiment has been successful. You have made a major strike at the root of materialism. When you see a flower in your mind, there is no flower inside your brain. That seems simple enough. But where is the flower? There's no picture of it in your cerebrum, because your brain contains no light. How about the color yellow? Is there a patch of yellow inside your brain's gray matter? Obviously not.

Yet you assume--as do all who fall for the superstition of materialism--that flowers and the color yellow exist 'out there' in the world and are photographically reproduced by the brain, acting as a camera made of organic tissue. In fact, existence of flowers shifts mysteriously once it is closely examined. The experience of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell is created in consciousness. Molecules don't assemble in your head to make the sound of a trumpet blaring in a brass band, for example. The brain is silent. So where does the world of sights and sounds come from?

Materialists cannot offer any reasonable explanation. The fact is that an enormous gap exists between any physical, measurable event and our perception. If I talk to you, all I am doing is vibrating air with my vocal cords. Every aspect of that event can be seen and measured, but turning those vibrating air molecules into meaningful words has never been seen or measured. It can't be.

That's why Dawkins will never find God. He's looking in the wrong place. The physical world can't deliver God, not because God doesn't exist, but because the solid, physical world is an illusion--as quantum physics proved long ago--and one must look inside consciousness itself to find what God is about. If God is a universal intelligence, that will turn out to be a fact. It won't be superstition. It won't be derived from the Bible or the Koran.

When you get to the primal state of the universe, what is it? A universal field that encloses all matter and energy. This field is everywhere, but it also localizes itself. A molecule in the brain is one expression of the field, so is a thought. If a molecule isn't an object but a collapsed quantum wave, then that holds true for the whole brain. The field turns out to be the common ground of both the inner and outer world. When Einstein said that he wanted to know the mind of God, he was pointing us toward the field, which quantum physics continues to explore. Crude skeptics like Dawkins lag far behind.

Fortunately, as the two worlds of inner and outer begin to merge, we won't be plagued by either the superstition of religion or the superstition of materialism. New concepts will explain how the color yellow exists in our brain as the same phenomenon as a yellow flower in the meadow. Both are experiences in consciousness.

That covers the basic and I think most convincing refutation of the anti-God argument. It doesn't prove God by any means, much less does it degrade science. The damage that anti-God rhetoric does is to cloud reality. In reality there is ample room for both God and science. Many forward-looking thinkers realize this; sadly, Richard Dawkins isn't among them.

The God Delusion? Part 6

Deepak Chopra - December 01, 2006

The fact that Dawkins is serving as point man for a broad sense of outrage among scientists who want religion to stay out of the laboratory is admirable. But that is a social issue. The deeper issue is whether God has anything to offer to science. Dawkins emphatically thinks there is no practical use for God, the soul, transcendence, or any other so-called spiritual concept in his field, which is evolutionary biology. This brings us to another main point.

6. The evolution of life can be explained completely without intruding the notion of an intelligent designer.

This point would seem to be a slam dunk, since Darwin's theory--and those that have sprung from it--is purely physical. Evolution proceeds, according to Darwin, through environmental stresses that put pressure on a species to survive. A sudden change in climate, the appearance of new predators, a drastic drop in the water supply are all examples of such stresses. Some creatures will adapt better than others. This is measured by whether a population of animals increases or decreases. Thus adaptation comes down to reproduction. If an animal exhibits changes that increase its chance of passing those changes on to its offspring, evolution moves forward. If, however, a mutation occurs that lowers the chance for reproduction, obviously it can't be passed on, and as a result other species survive in the endless competition for food, territory, and mating rights.

This whole scheme, which has been validated thousands of times over, excludes God. Random mutations have nothing to do with a designer. The rise and fall of species shows no intelligent plan. Even the idea of progress is over-simplified. Evolution doesn't automatically make a species bigger, stronger, more intelligent or more beautiful. Blue-green algae, for example, is one of the most primitive forms of life, yet it fits its niche in the environment perfectly well today, just as it has for billions of years. The fact that an orchid seems more beautiful to our eyes and a redwood tree more majestic doesn't mean God created that beauty and majesty. Or that Nature intended those qualities in any way.

Yet the triumph of materialism in explaining the formation of life is grossly flawed. Dawkins realizes that there are enormous gaps in evolutionary theory, but he keeps assuring us that these will be filled in over time. Genetics, like evolution itself, proceeds by increments, and we mustn't leap to embrace an intelligent designer just because so many things around us seem, well, intelligently designed.

The fact that the world appears to be so perfectly knit, so stunningly precise down to the millionths of a degree, so beautiful, and in the end so meaningful to anyone who can appreciate these qualities, is a problem for materialists. For centuries one of the strongest proofs of God has been the inference that nothing less than a supreme being could have created life. Unfortunately for Dawkins, refuting this claim isn't nearly as easy as he thinks.

To begin with, he tries to claim probability for his side, saying that the odds against a Creator God are too slim to be credible, whereas the odds for Darwin's theory exist right before our eyes. Could it really be true that blue-green algae evolved, one tiny step at a time, until every single tree, flower, fern, and grass grew from it (not to mention every animal)? The odds seem impossibly small, but the fossil record proves that they came true.

God, on the other hand, is merely inferred. He's an invisible supposition, and who needs one when we have fossils? The flaw here is subtle, for Dawkins is imagining God in advance and then claiming that what he imagines has little chance of existing. That's perfectly true, but why should God be what Dawkins imagines--a superhuman Creator making life the way a watchmaker makes a watch? Let's say God is closer to being a field of consciousness that pervades the universe. Let's say that this field keeps creating new forms within itself. These forms swirl and mix with each other, finding more combinations and complexities as time unfolds. Such a God couldn't be imagined because a field is infinite, and there's nowhere it isn't. Thus trying to talk about God is like a fish trying to talk about wetness. A fish is immersed in wetness; it has nothing to compare water to, and the same is true of consciousness. We are conscious and intelligent, and it does no good to talk about the probability of not being conscious and intelligent.

We are in God as a fish is in water. Dawkins doesn't take this argument seriously (he imagines that he can entirely dismiss geniuses on the order of Plato, Socrates, Hegel, Kant, Newton, and Einstein simply because they aren't up on the current issue of Scientific American, as he is). In the past, thinkers saw intelligence and consciousness all around them, and they set out to explain their source, which some called God. It's not necessary to use such a word. But it is necessary to find the source.

Dawkins, along with other arch materialists, dismiss such a search. Are information fields real, as some theorists believe? Such a field might preserve information the way energy fields preserve energy; in fact, the entire universe may be based upon the evolution of information. (there's not the slightest doubt that the universe has an invisible source outside space and time.) A field that can create something new and then remember it would explain the persistence of incredibly fragile molecules like DNA, which by any odds should have disintegrated long ago under the pressure of entropy, not to mention the vicissitudes of heat, wind, sunlight, radiation, and random mistakes through mutation.

Dawkins falls prey, not to the delusion of God, but to the delusion of an all-mighty chance acting mindlessly through matter. He cannot admit the possibility of an ordering force in Nature. Therefore, he has no ability to discover the precursors of the human mind, which is ultimately the greatest triumph of evolutionary biology, not DNA. Until we have a credible explanation for mind, it's pointless to argue about God as if we understand what's at stake. Religion and science are both operating with incomplete concepts.

The entire universe is experienced only through consciousness, and even though consciousness is invisible and non-material, it's the elephant in the room so far as evolutionary theory is concerned. This is a huge topic, of course, and I've offered earlier posts on the many flaws in current evolutionary theory. under the topic of Intelligent Design. It's difficult threading one's way through the battlefield, with fundamentalists firing smoke on one side and skeptics arrogantly defending the scientific status quo on the other, but earth-shaking issues are at stake. When we understand both intelligence and design, a quantum leap in evolutionary theory will be possible.

The God Delusion? Part 7

Deepak Chopra - December 04, 2006

Ultimately, Richard Dawkins can fight with religion all he wants and it will be only a sideshow. He is a color commentator sitting in the bleachers, not a player in the game. Skepticism offers critiques, not discoveries. Ironically, this is a shared fate with religion, which has ceased to play a progressive and vital role in modern society. The two are locked in a sterile embrace. So how can a new conception of God change this situation? The answer centers on the last point from Dawkins in our discussion.

7. The universe is full of wonder and mystery, but these will be solved, one at a time, until science has a complete understanding. In this way the entire supernatural tradition--and God himself--will be erased.

This is a powerful and optimistic claim that seems plausible in an age of heady discoveries in physics and biology. The famous Theory of Everything draws closer to fulfillment than ever. In fact, science has become even more ambitious. The original Theory of Everything belonged solely to physics. It had no intention of explaining the evolution of life. But with the completion of the human genome project, life will also cease to be a mystery, so Dawkins assures us. Every mechanism hidden inside DNA will be mastered and used for human good.

It's hard for materialists not to thump their chests, as Dawkins so brazenly does. Unfortunately, the Theory of Everything has hit a brick wall. Quantum physics lacks the power to cross the border into the invisible world that lies beyond subatomic particles, the so-called virtual domain. Not only is this the realm of 'dark matter' and 'dark energy'--mysterious shadows of the matter and energy we see around us--but all possible universes also lie across the same boundary, as well as the "zero point" where space and time are born.

Genetics seems to be riding higher, but behind the display of public triumph, biology has not solved the existence of mind, and therefore the same obstacle faces both fields. An invisible world lies sealed off from investigation, leaving us to trace its footprints and echoes. MRIs and CAT scans are impressive but limited. As someone once commented, brain research is like putting a stethoscope to the outside of the Astrodome and trying to figure out the rules of football. Dawkins finds consciousness (as well as quantum physics) totally irrelevant, a comment on his own intellectual limitations rather than reality. If God is going to become viable again, he will have to be a God who solves some key mysteries in the virtual domain:

--What separates life from inert matter?
--What part does the observer play in creating reality?
--How does the infinite quantum field organize and govern every event in the universe?
--How does chaos relate to order? Are they enemies or secret allies?
--How did evolution overcome entropy, the ceaseless march of the physical universe toward chaos and the deep freezer of "heat death"?
--Why is the universe so amazingly hospitable to human life?

This last question is the most pressing one, for both believers and non-believers. To claim that the swirling, chaotic quantum soup that erupted from the Big Bang evolved into human life by random chance is only believable because science has no urgent need to find a credible alternative. As long as a scientist stands outside nature with his nose pressed against the glass like a child peering through a bakery shop window (to borrow an image from the noted physicist John Wheeler) we get a false picture of the cosmos. The only advantage of isolating yourself in this way is that it fits the scientific method. But no matter how many rats run through the maze, it's futile to pretend that we are outside the experiment. The truth is completely different:

--We are imbedded in the universe. What we observe is ourselves reflected back at us.
--Every sight, sound, texture, taste, and smell is the product of an observer. As the observer changes, so do all these qualities.
--We perceive imagination, beauty, creativity, etc. in ourselves and thus we see the same in Nature. Every attribute of the human mind is imbedded in the universe.

Why can you remember your birthday and the face of someone you love? Because DNA can remember how to produce generations of human beings. Why does DNA remember? There's the mystery. We can link memory as a human attribute to chemical memory. But when we ask where chemicals learned to remember, science is baffled. Dissecting DNA is one thing. Asking the "why" of DNA is another.

Dawkins feels that why is a foolish, probably meaningless question, totally devoid of scientific interest. So be it. But why is the single most important question humans ask, particularly when it comes to ourselves. Ultimately we want to know who we are and our purpose for being here. Dawkins doesn't seem to have any doubt about who he is: he's the evolutionary byproduct of chemical forces, physical laws, random events, natural selection, competition, adaptation, and survival. So is an amoeba. Sadly, this reductionist picture of human life is devoid of meaning. It's merely a map of how a physical machine called the body came to be built. Such knowledge is like knowing everything about a computer except how to plug it in.

What if memory is an attribute of Nature itself? All around us we see memory at work. The insulin that functions in primitive organisms retains the same function in higher mammals. The chemical reaction that propels a butterfly's wings to beat is duplicated to make human heart cells beat. Once we take seriously the notion that we are inside the bake shop, not standing outside with our noses pressed up against the glass, it becomes obvious that memory isn't a separate, isolated attribute.

Nature is constantly remembering. Nature is constantly creating, exercising imagination, discovering quantum leaps. When hydrogen and oxygen combined, the result wasn't another inert gas. It was water, and water represents a huge imaginative leap on the part of the universe. The reason one can say this with confidence is simple: if the universe didn't have imagination, neither would we. That's what it means to be imbedded in the field. Nothing we know about ourselves can be separated from what Nature displays.

Which finally, at long last, breathes new life into God. Dawkins is absolutely right to declare a requiem service over the God of organized religion and to warn us about the dangers of superstition, dogma, and pseudo-science. (Too bad he isn't wise enough to heed the words of a right-wing fundamentalist on CNN: "As long as you hate us, we're not going away.") But what Dawkins tragically misses holds far more optimism for the future than he ever could: the universe is renewing itself through us. Science is God explaining God to God using a human nervous system. Or as one wit put it, God created scientists to prove that he doesn't exist--and failed.

There is nothing outside the field. It displays omnipresence and omnipotence, being all-pervasive and containing all matter and energy. Soon science will come to terms with the presence of consciousness in the field (advanced systems theory as well as information theory is hard at work already) and we will add omniscience to the list. This new God will be the source of mind. Its ability to orchestrate evolution will make sense because it must. Humans cannot have any knowledge except knowledge of ourselves. Every facet of the cosmos is a mirror. The fact that the chemical reaction driving a butterfly's wings also keeps you and me alive is no accident--it's part of a design.

Contrary to what Dawkins thinks, this design isn't a blueprint or a diagram set down by a fictitious God. It's a vital, ever-evolving, imaginative, dramatic process. Strangely enough, so is human existence. The similarity isn't a coincidence--there is nothing we call human that isn't, quite literally, transcendent. Beyond the physical world lies the womb of creation, and whether we call it God is irrelevant. We came from a source, we are forever in contact with our source, and we are constantly returning to our source. This is the real mystery of existence that Dawkins trivializes with his over-heated skepticism. Far more profound are the words of T.S. Eliot:

And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled.

In the final post on this topic, I wll address some of the responses I have received.

Some responders have problems with a sentence from this post: "When hydrogen and oxygen combined, the result wasn't another inert gas. " I meant, of course, another inert gas like radon or neon. If I thought that oxygen and hydrogen were inert gases, I wouldn't have stated that they combine, since by definition inert gases can't combine. They have no free electron(s) in their outer orbits with which to combine.

This discussion will be more productive if we all grant each other the respect we would like to receive.

Love, Deepak

Tue, 09 Dec 2008 18:17:00 UTC | #285382