Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Grand Design

Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design, makes God irrelevant to creation. “It is not necessary to invoke God to … get the universe going.” All you need, he says, is gravity. He is not the first to do this, and like the others he has unleashed a torrent of protesters.

What Dr. Hawking and his opponents have in common is the notion that God, whatever God may be, is something outside the process of creation. Hawking is saying there is no need for anything outside the process, and hence there is no need for God. His opponents say there is such a need, and therefore a need for God.

My problem with both arguments is the very definition of God as someone or something outside the system. For me God is the system.

But is this merely a matter of semantics? Am I really an atheist with a linguistic tic that has me say “God” over and over again?

Well, I am an atheist if by “theist” you mean someone who believes God is a person outside creation who made and manages the world. I just cannot believe such a being exists. And, like Spinoza, I could use alternative words for God, though I prefer Reality to his Natura (Nature). God is reality, the source and substance of all that was, is, and will be.

When Hawking says that the universe creates itself out of nothing he is using everyday language in a unique way. “Nothing” for him is intrinsically creative. It is, grammar aside, not a noun but a verb. This is how I understand God as well. And what the Hebrew Bible seems to hint at when it reveals God’s name as YHVH, a variant of the Hebrew verb “to be,” rather than its English rendering: the noun, “Lord.”

People want to know how creation got started. I suggest that it never stopped. The universe is a dance of on and off; the multiverse that Hawking posits all the more so. God is not just on or off, but both on and off and the flow from one to the other over and over again.

Of course you can’t pray to my God, and my God doesn’t back sports teams, politicians, specific legislation, or religions, so my God may be of no use to you. I understand that. My God is of no use to anyone. A god you can use is an idol.


Unknown said...

"It is not necessary to invoke God to ...get the universe going."

God is creation, both verb and noun. God is gravity and the dust that comes together to form planets and stars.

I do believe I am preaching to the choir, as they say.

Old Lady said...

Touche and may I add that the scientific theorum that encapsulates this for me is "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it changes from one form to another" How succint is this statement in relation to all that is God, Nature and the universe. Each a part of the whole each having infinitely exponential parts.

Unknown said...

I think sometimes it is our need to explain, our need to have "one right answer" that separates us.

Ron Krumpos said...

In "The Grand Design" Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics...the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate but never completed. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

E=mc², Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

The Right to Write said...

Would you call yourself a pantheist, Rabbi? In your last book on Ecclesiastes very many interpretations of passages read like it. And of course, you equate “the god” ha-elohim, in the text with reality.

Rabbi Rami said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments. As to the question, "Am I a pantheist," the answer is no, I am a panentheist. Pantheism (all is God) equates God and Nature, panentheism (all is in God) allows God to include and transcend (but never separate from) nature. This is closer to my sense of the matter.

In either case it makes it very difficult for me to fit into any normative branch of Judaism or to find much comfort in the Jewish liturgy.

Ron Krumpos said...

Many of the most prominent mystics were panentheistic, i.e. the divine is within and beyond all, both immanent and transcendent. Although that viewpoint is not heretical, it does not conform to the doctrines of institutional Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Few Buddhists and not all Hindus would ascribe to it either.

Peter Schogol said...

Rami, your panentheism allows you to address God if you so choose and to posit a single agency to creation, but it leaves you open to the criticism that agency implies either sentience or purpose. Do you see either in the universe?

Peter Schogol said...

Rami, your panentheism allows you to address God if you so choose and to posit a single agency to creation, but it leaves you open to the criticism that agency implies either sentience or purpose. Do you see either in the universe?

l4m said...

Sure I can pray to your God. You may think it doesn't make sense, but it makes me feel better and more connected to reality and that was my goal.