The God of fact

Belief is our consolation in the face of uncertainty.  It is nice to believe that the truth is out there and that the facts can move us along towards its realisation, yet the path is long and tortuous and fraught with uncertainties, and dogma can easily intervene with the answer that requires us to look no further.   It is in the realms of dogma that belief comes face to face with disbelief; and though it might seem that disbelief has freed itself from a particular delusion, the disbelief upholds nothing more than an alternative belief about an issue that continues to test our understanding – a fact that passes unnoticed by those who continue to believe otherwise.  The resultant disgregation of beliefs occurs because ‘the truth’ remains the most unbelievable uncertainty of all – a bastion of contradictions accommodating panjandrums of belief – only it is the dogma of professing to have possession of the definitive facts that prevents us from knowing it.

  • We are given to believe things when we do not know, we take to know things when we don’t see the belief.
  • We like to believe that the truth is out there, but it remains a belief, and we can know it only as our version of truth, based upon what we are prepared to believe.
  • If disbelief is a form of belief, then we can’t disbelieve in belief, despite believing otherwise.
  • There is more of dogma than fact in the belief that truth will rid us of contradiction.
  • Dogma exchanges the realistic anxiety of uncertainty for an unrealistic illusion of certainty.

Belief is bigger than religion.  We don’t need religions in order to believe in God,  except that shared beliefs give people an increased feeling of being right.  The same is true of atheism, despite its focus on a form of disbelief; and the fact that atheism is no antidote to religion is evident in the influence of Buddhism as a renowned atheist religion.   In fact, belief is the common denominator in all things we profess to know, and despite all the shared dialogue we continue to perceive the truth as a dichotomy between right and wrong, which we then resolve to our own personal and cultural satisfaction in terms of what we happen to believe, aided by the facts we recruit to our cause.   Meanwhile science holds on to its own belief that the facts will tell us what to know and show us the way – as if factual knowledge is sufficient to do away with belief.

  • Whereas an ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’, we have nowhere to look in the absence of a frame of reference in what to believe?
  • We can’t avoid belief by not believing in it.
  • Belief sustains the image of factual certainty that the fact cannot supply.
  • Belief is the God we worship in the name of fact.
  • Knowing that we know is more a fact of belief than knowledge.

Mike Laidler

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Questions: ‘Loaded dice’ and ‘a theory of everything’

’What is a theory of everything?
Based upon the current idiom of science, it is a theory that can capture the whole of existence in a single factual or mathematical proof – as if that fact or equation can stand apart from the realms of theory, and as if reality dictates to theory that everything reduces to that one thing.

What is a theory of chance?
We are surrounded by chance events, which prompts us to ask whether the universe might have started that way. Chance can be seen to operate within certain boundaries to yield uncertain outcomes. For instance, rolling a die can have uncertain outcomes, but they are limited by the nature of the die, which doesn’t look like it got here by chance. Of course there may be additional uncertain consequences, such as an ensuing fight, but these are indirect and tend to remain only notionally connected. Normally, chance and probability are used to calculate the likelihood of an outcome, but that’s not quite the same thing as explaining it; however, other, more fanciful suppositions court the idea that anything can happen by chance – that a rolling rock could in theory turn itself into a die – although fewer still would go so far as to say it is theoretically possible for a rolling rock to turn into a chicken. Yet many hypotheses are promulgated, to varying degrees of nonsense, in the attempt to explain changes we can’t explain except by putting them down to chance – even to the point of decrying the importance of known non-chance events – as if the works of Shakespeare could, in theory, be replicated by placing typewriters in an infinite monkey cage. Other theories place chance at the origin of ‘life, the universe and everything’ – as the essential pre-existing or spontaneously exiting cause, or as a nexus in multiple universes.

If the answer isn’t ‘in the beginning’, where is it?
It’s likely to be in ‘an end-point’ outside of our reach. That’s why we prefer to look to beginnings – because they seem more accessible and there are still clues to be found, although we tend to treat each discoverable beginning as not the actual beginning of ‘it all’. However, an ‘ultimate beginning’ is not likely to be a repository of everything in any event, simply because of the fact that we can see things changing to become more than they were, and it is happening right before our eyes. So we are witnessing new beginnings all the time and remain challenged by the inexplicable facts of change, which we try to make explicable by looking in vein to ever more distant beginnings for a more ample cause. Meanwhile, theories of beginnings and ends remain highly theoretical – for isn’t every end a new beginning in the bigger picture of a dynamic universe where effects adorn the reality of their causes with something new? Furthermore, the idea of a first cause setting up a consistent chain of events, seems to suggest that ‘the dice were loaded from the start’, unless this consistency is an illusion of our place and time in ‘our universe’ – because the infinite variety of alternatives that are consistent with chance remain hidden from us in an unobservable ‘multiverse’.

Is there a purpose to existence?
This is a question we can feel more at home with, indeed we can also make some firm inroads towards an answer, because we already know there is purpose and meaning in existence, if only by way of our own presence, nature and outlook – and since we happen to be a real part of the universe we bear proof in ourselves of what can transpire. This change in the nature of nature is no less significant in cosmic terms just because we find it happens to be peculiar to us. But questions remain to be answered: where does it all lead and does it end with us? It seems that the answers lie in the bigger picture, where ends turn out to be bigger than beginnings – whereby our sense of meaning and purpose, despite manifesting as a part of us, may in fact be a staging point of a further beginning. (The question of ‘a bigger picture’ has been examined above).
So it may well be the case that we are privy to only a part of the answer, given that it is fair to assume that we exist in a universe that is bigger than us and that the nature of our being owes to more than we bring to it. Nevertheless, we can take comfort from the incompleteness of our situation, in the stark realisation that the purpose in existence is likely to be bigger than all we can make of it, just as the facts are likely to remain bigger than all we can make of them. Thereafter, the main obstacle to our progress is ourselves and our equally deficient observation that reality is confined to the facts of a purposeless nature that fixes the fate of what it all adds up to, which we uphold by promising ourselves that this explanation will win through in the end – as if we can deem ourselves adequate to explain the existence of existence or the extent of its nature and possibilities.

Mike Laidler