One of the arguments that atheists often bring forth is that the Christian notion of God is logically inconsistent. 1+1+1=1 they will point out doesn’t logically make sense. Well, on the other hand a fundamental particle being simultaneously a mathematical point and and extended object is logically inconsistent as well. Yet the latter is presently our best understanding of how nature presents itself, quantum objects, leptons and quarks that is to say matter is in fact point-like and extended at the same time. The atheists failing is that they, when confronted with the first logical inconsistency insist is it fundamental and when confronted with the second, insist that the human mind and our learning will encompass and explain the paradox more fully. I would suggest that the latter confidence can equally be applied to the former and that if they cannot yet understand it, that is because they are not engaging their imagination and optimism in the same way for reasons which have little to do with the problem posed.

Yet at the same time, there is an accusation of lack of imagination which might be returned to the court of the Christian believer. Modern physics has deepened our understanding concerning space and time. Applying the Minkowoski metrics to a four dimensional Riemann manifold describing space time as governed by a dynamical equation by Einstein in his proposal of General Relativity is a powerful way of envisioning our Universe. Similarly, Yang-Mills gauge theories, either classical or quantized provide a beautiful geometrically motivated understanding of the forces and small scale structure of space time. Ernst Mach a physicist and philosopher, prior to Einstein considered abstract ideas regarding motion and inertia, with the idea suggested that a single object in space (in the absence of any other “things”) has no inertia. In fact motion can only be described as a relation between two things. Christian conceptions place God, or at least his essence if not His energies following St. Gregory Palamas, outside of time. Certainly God prior to creation and the eschaton are placed by theologian to be outside of time. Christians have, as far as I know, not connected either large-scale or small scale (Minkowski-Riemann space-time or Yang-Mills quantization of U(1)xSU(2)xSU(3) gauge theory) to the notion of what “out of time” means. For myself, while I’ve thought a little about this and have nothing useful to report as yet, this book by John Pokinghorne might spur some ideas, The God of Hope and the End of the World. it should be noted that Mr Polkinghorne was an accomplished theoretical physicist before he became a Anglican priest and theologian.

Humans endow the world with meaning. Semantic content flows from our every thought and our conversation finds expression and meaning in semantic intercourse with others. Yet, in a purely material world semanatic content is meaningless. A pattern of electro-chemical discharges invoking vibrational patterns in the air is devoid of meaning. Yet humans call that speech and embue it with semantic import in a way which can be translated to word, text, and image. Michael Polanyi in Personal Knowledge recounts that when reading his morning correspondence which arrives from friends and peers the world over is unaware during the act of reading the language in which the text he reads is transmitted (obviously he is very fluent in a number of different languages). When he wishes to share something, for example, with his son, who only knows English, he has to check to see if the letter or passage of interest is in English or not. He is not, in the act of reading, consciously aware of the langauge which he is reading. On this matter theists and atheists point the “lack of imagination” finger at the other, the latter insisting that the semantic boostrap from the material to the semantic is lacking in the imagination of the former and the former insisting that the latter cannot imagine how the semantic boostrap itself might be the essence of the soul.

Filed under: AtheismChristianityMark O.ReligionScience

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