Today my favourite blogger John Gruber linked to a quote by Paul Jillett, in Jillett’s book, God No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist:
"There is no god, and that is the truth. If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exactly nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it out again. "
I find myself reflecting long and hard on this argument. As a Christian, I have some thought in response to reading this. I hope I don’t sound too defensive.
It appears that the argument is built on a sound assumption of truth: that the truth is like a destination with many roads leading to it; no matter what path you take, it leads to the same place. Therefore, if you destroy all the religions and start over again, chances are that the path that we as people would take will lead to some gods who are different. That difference the shows that god doesn’t exist, but rather just stories that we fabricated and refined against the backdrop of our cultures and customs. Religions, in other words, fail the truth test.
I think the author has kind of gone out on a limb to suppose this scenario that all religions are to be destroyed when his point would have been more well served by observing the variety of religions that exist in our world today. If god is the truth, shouldn’t it be universally singular? And doesn’t matter what cultures we come from, i.e., the path that we take, shouldn’t we reach the same God? Since we don’t, therefore any religious indoctrination cannot exist as part of the truth.
It is a good test for the truth. It is great to use it to test the truism in scientific principles and theorems. But this reasoning tool falls short when we apply this to a bigger truth, such as one involving God: to suggest that we as human will arrive at exact science points if we were to start everything over again is to suggest that our views of the laws of physics are final and no new discovery can significantly alter the course of our scientific understanding; in other words, that we have arrived at the destination, where all roads brown un-covered by reasoning and logics will lead to. That is simply not true. Even scientists themselves will tell you that is not true. Hypothetically speaking, if we are to start over again with science, will we again get tripped up in thinking that particle is like a billiard ball, as suggested by Bohr, or will we wrongfully neglect the wave properties in our description of nucleus? To me, even some scientific principles falls author’s own truth test. In the spirit of science, truth is the truth until it is disproven. With science, we have yet arrived at a destination, but rather, we have only stopped at a gas station. So if I were to take this trip again, there may very well be a good chance I will not end up at the same place. Does it mean sciences are not the truth? No.
We are part of a story that continues to evolve and our views of the world is transient in nature. I think it is fair to accept that not all data has been observed to create a principle of everything. And without the “complete” data, there are always a chance scientific principles can be struck down by even the scientific means.
At the end of the day, the truth of God is accepted by the followers by faith, not by reason and logic. The difference between those with faith in God and the ones who don’t believe in God is that the former is willing to reconcile the truth that we understand by reasons with the truth given by God through faith while the latter simply just accept the unproven as being unknown. Either way is fine with me. I think when we talk about science and God, we have the tendency to treat them as two different brand of truth. But I think that is the wrong way of looking at it; rather, God is the truth (to Christian) and science is the pursuit of truth (to all).