Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Mental Gymnastics" - The Blame Game

The other day a Facebook friend of mine posted a picture of a small child, about three or four years old, living in abject poverty in some small African village. The little one was all bent over, near death, bloated stomach, bones easily visible and panting what was no doubt his last remaining breaths of life. Not too far behind the child was a patiently waiting vulture just standing as if knowing a fresh meal was soon to be had.

My friend commented that it was this kind of horrific event in human life that proves to him there can be no real existence of God because a loving, caring God surely would not allow for such a terrifying tragedy to happen in the life of such an innocent.

I was naturally horrified at the sight of that young infant but had to take umbrage with my friend’s remark. I am no defender of God. If God does exist or not isn’t even the point of the picture and to take it down that road removes all responsibility from the very one’s responsible for such atrocities; we human beings. Besides, God doesn’t need someone of my limited intelligence to argue a case for It’s existence.

The picture, however, doesn't prove the non-existence of a God, but does prove the free will of men and their audacity to let this happen to their fellows. God, if It exists at all, will not intervene when it is within the power of humankind to fix their own problems. We simply refuse to fix them.

I’m not making a scientific claim that God exists. That is one hypothesis that is unprovable because if God does exist and is infinite, as those who claim Its existence to be, and we do exist since - I am therefore I think - (Descartes got it backwards) and we are finite (we are born then die), then we, being finite creatures trying to prove or disprove the infinite is an exercise in futility. One cannot prove or disprove the existence of the infinite - both ideas become a matter of faith.

There are those who have faith that God exists and those who have faith that God doesn't exist. Both sides try to offer up arguments for their positions because that too seems to be part of the finite human condition, we feel the need to explain or justify what it is we have faith in. However, both cannot empirically prove their position because proof is best left within the realm of science. This is one subject real science doesn't bother with because, quite frankly, it is a monumental waste of time and an impossibility.

What I claim is that the argument being presented by the image of human travesty (in this case a starving & neglected child), doesn't prove that God is non-existent any more than a picture of a fat, well-fed, rosy-cheeked, smothered-in-love child is proof God does exists.

As a side, just for those who believe a well ordered and saintly life is not possible without faith in a God I must conclude from my own observations over the past six-plus decades of life that in order to "live a good life" a belief in a God or some other kind of supernatural being is not prerequisite. In my many worldly travels across this the globe I have known some pretty strong believers in God, Jesus, Allah, Krishna - ad infinitum, who were downright dreadful human beings, and have also known agnostics and atheist who were wonderful, loving, caring citizens. Faith in God, or the lack thereof, holds no patent on what we might term today as decent human behavior.

So to all who espouse the opposite I would say that there is no such thing as a "lack of faith." Everyone is born with faith. Just as breathing and the heart beat is a natural part of the physical life, faith is a natural part of the mental and emotional life (or what some term spiritual life). Without it nobody could function at all but would be frozen in panic and indecision. Faith is the engine that runs human drive, ingenuity, curiosity and the ability to cross an untested bridge. Everyone who is human has faith. We use it every day of our lives. Many have simply chosen to use it to accept the unprovable notion that God doesn't exist just as many have chosen to use it to accept the unprovable notion that God does exist. Neither side is right or wrong, just driven by that natural human function to believe.

Anything not yet proven by the empirical scientific method is based on faith as the word is properly defined. For instance, in my field of medical physics we have faith or a certain belief, based on as yet unproven mathematical equations, that such and such will be the end result of the hypothesis put forth and will one day be substantiated by fact once it meets the specified documented, repeatable results in the laboratory or clinical setting within the boundaries set forth. Until that day arrives we call our belief a theory. But, at the heart of that theory, when all the outward display of equations and graphs are removed, what remains is faith. Since proof requires the truth or fact to be noticed or known when it is achieved then having the ability to prove an infinite God's existence requires the very thing human beings lack - that ability to know it when they see it - infinity of being. Therefore, in science we have limited our studies to those things which are provable by the scientific method within our vast, yet limited, finite frame of reference.

All I have just written was done so to lay claim to the truth of the statement that to not believe in God requires the same faith as to believe in God because neither state of mind can be scientifically proven, and a hypothesis not yet proven by that method is based on a system of belief - or what has been coined as faith.

1 comment:

disperser said...

I would gently suggest the burden of proof does not rest on the shoulders of the the unbeliever.

As for the picture, I too saw that . . . my first thought was that such a picture should not be possible.

Where I there, my first action would be to go help the child, and not to first take a picture of it.

As much as I understand that the problem exists, that it is monumental, that it is a real tragedy, I can't help but feel manipulated by such images.

For one, that picture is a number of years old (unless they staged one exactly like the earlier versions I saw), and hence what I want to know is: did the child live?

In all likelihood,given the number of children who die each year is around 20,000,000, it did not . . . so then I am left with the vague repulsion at someone using the picture to promote their own, however noble they think it is, agenda.