Dear Mr. Bloom,
I love your books. I have read The Lucifer Principle, Genius of the Beast and The Global Brain and am currently reading The God Problem. So, I am a big fan even though we may disagree about God and the Problem…although I do agree that what we call God and how we define God is a problem.
You are one of my favorite writers, thinkers, scientists and historians, and I enjoy your amazing encyclopedic knowledge of cultures, systems and organization. I love your books for feasting off your hard work and appreciate your laboring to articulate many vital insights about the stream of human knowledge.
I don’t generally read books based on someone’s beliefs, but rather for how they say what they say. I love language perhaps as much as you love math. Through language we enhance our ability to think, imagine and understand. Language is a powerful influence and big part of what makes us human- changing us even if we don’t realize it.
Now, a word or two on the heresies you listed in your book. In your attempt to not only debunk the existence of God, but then to blame the presence of evil in the world on him and his believers, it is equally clear that God does not equal God, in the same way that you show that A does not equal A. Even the most learned religious scholar or saint cannot claim to know or understand completely a power such as the first cause, creator of the universe would most certainly be. So just as A does not equal A, God does not equal God.
While it is true that God’s believers are quite culpable in the share of the evil done by man, and that their behavior may sometimes discourage a belief in a God, that does nothing to prove or disprove an existence of God. The moral nature of God or of believers says nothing about the truth or nature of God’s existence. If God were in fact proven to be the perpetrator of evil, you could choose to dislike him and wish to take away his power, but it would do no good to not believe in his existence. While it is possible to disprove the existence of what or who God is by defining God as something disprovable, you may not be able to disprove the existence of God as defined by myself or others. In order to disprove God’s existence you must first define what you mean by God, yes?
Just as importantly, the deficiency in our ability to have knowledge and certainty about the nature of God, should there be one, says much more about us than about the nature of God. Same rules apply to the progression of our knowledge of science and the nature of the cosmos as to the nature of a god that might exist. I know that positing an existence assumes something where science claims no assumptions, but what we know is always assumed when framing a world view. So, assuming the existence of some form of higher intelligence that one chooses to call God, is a lot like the scientific assumption that the world is intelligible. Something is always assumed, whether you believe in God or not.
When A does not equal A, and I truly believe that can sometimes be correct having spent a large chunk of my life’s energy pondering the nature of identity, it should be clear to us that in every attempt to define any thing, we risk falling short of the complexity and variability of the thing in question. We think and define things and events into an identity, which is why to get to the truth or at least closer to the truth, we must not only think. Knowing this much we accept that we know very little, directly or absolutely. Most of the time we can only approximate the nature of things, and most of the time that is enough. But we have lots of tools to enhance our direct knowledge and test what works. But as much as I accept that I can never prove God’s existence, I also accept that non-existence cannot be proven either. But, I don’t think most arguments for atheism are really about God’s existence. Allowing for the existence of God is either a useful way of understanding life or it is not.
I am surprised that as a lover of science and an historian, you would grant that an understanding of nature and the cosmos has benefitted greatly by the evolution both of life forms and of human scientific understanding, but that you cannot grant that an understanding of God may also undergo an evolution. Perhaps your hope and wish for a world in which evil, and specifically human evil, are eliminated, are leading you to believe that the human mind cleansed of a belief in God could one day lead us into a world of peaceful coexistence with each other and all of nature – but that belief is not very scienctific at all, rather it is an oversimplistic moral imperative.
Aquinas argued that evil is the absence of good, in the same way that cold is the absence of heat. There isn’t really any such thing as cold, but only varying degrees of heat. By comparison, evil is a condition in which we find very little, or seemingly no good, but does not exist as a thing itself. Rather than asking why is there evil, a better question might be why do we perceive it, care about it, and react to it? Do other animals make these judgments? Sure, they experience fear and an instinct for survival but do they judge it? No, if they did we’d see birds getting together after being attacked by the neighborhood cat to plot and execute their revenge.
But because humans partly think and imagine the nature of existence as well as using their senses, they do plot, plan and try to subjugate or eliminate their enemies. Humans also sense that because there is existence, and therefore intelligence, that there must be some powerful force, more intelligent than ourselves or anything we can imagine, that drives all of existence. Otherwise, why does anything exist, and especially exist to know in the way that we do?
Science is what tells us how things, as we are able to perceive and imagine, do what they do, from the smallest particle to the larger organization of the cosmos. As yet, science has not told us why there is anything at all, even though positing a big bang beginning or multiverses, or string theory. The problem of God is the problem of the primary cause, the very ground of being. The fact that some humans use God to justify evil acts, does nothing to prove or disprove God’s existence. I don’t like that evil is perpetrated on others in the name of God anymore than that evil is perpetrated on others in the name of convenience, or ecology, or science, but it doesn’t make me disbelieve in science.
Thank you Beach Boys for the theme song: