Into the mind of a believer

Those who follow me on Facebook would have frequently seen my lengthy discussions with my old classmate Stephen Raj.

And these discussions revolve around the same topic – the age old debate on reason vs. faith. (I have a feeling Steve wouldn’t approve of the way I have pitted reason against faith.) Over the years we have had debates which usually bring in audience (usually the same people) from either sides of the fence.

And like most things that go on for years, things are getting repetitive. We argue over the same points, often forgetting where we (leave alone the other) stand on a particular issue or question. So to address both these problems I thought I would create a ‘sticky’ post that captured both sides into a single post that we could refer to in the future. Of course, if Mr. Zukerberg had built even a basic search option in Facebook, there would be no need for all of this.

Instead of combing through our old posts, I thought it might be a good idea to start from scratch, and not just copy paste old posts. And to keep things ‘cleaner’ and more focussed, I decided to interview Steve. What we have below is the transcript of the interview as it stands today. 

We had some ground rules to start out with, and made up a few along the way.

Rule #1:  Vikram will not present any evidence contrary to Stephen’s beliefs.This is about his beliefs, not mine.

Rule #2: Steve has the option to opt for ‘off-the-record’ for some answers. These are not to be published on my blog.

Vikram: Would you say you believe in God

Stephen: Yes

V: Define God. Is it a sentient being? An abstract construct of man?

S: I believe God is a sentient being.

V: And does this being physically live in our known universe?

S: No idea

V: ok. Can I assume then that such a being, who may or may not live in our time-space might not necessarily be a physical presence?

S: Yes. Physicality is what I didn’t research on…but I am inclined to say. Not physical. Physical in the sense. Human flesh and blood

V: Yes. That is what I mean too. And you believe that this being – god, has created our known universe. I.e. all the stars, planets, life on earth, and literally everything.

S: I believe this God is the mastermind behind all the science that is out there in the universe and this God was the creating force behind all that is out there.

V: Do you believe that god – for whatever reason – transcends our understanding of space and time i.e. it is not governed by the laws of physics that we understand.

S: Out of space and time ..yes. Not governed by laws of physics.. I am not sure.

V: I am imagining some being close to the ‘5 dimensional’ people in Interstellar. Not sure if you have seen the movie. Would an ‘alien race’ i.e. A sentient being not of our known planet, or even universe and technologically leagues ahead of us fit your definition of god?

S: Didn’t see that movie. Sounds like god.

V: In that movie those beings were humans from the future, who have evolved beyond their current form. Since god could be an alien race, do you see the possibility that there are multiple ones? A whole race, perhaps billions of them?

S:Umm.. From a rational perspective, anything is possible. From a christian perspective, we don’t know anything abt outer space. As far as we know God is the guy out there.

Vikram’s side note [ I decided not to pursue the ‘rational vs. christian’ angle that Steve mentions.]

V: I am only interested in what you believe… We haven’t touched Christianity or even religion yet

S: Right now I’m in a phase questioning both sides. So can’t really pin point what I think

V: Ok. We can put a pin on this and get back to it later. What do you think God’s intent was in creating this universe?

S: so..what was god’s intent. Its more like why a man has children of his own…to love and be loved back..and have a communion ..a family.

V: When a human has a child its to propagate his race. So are you saying this is simply a satisfaction of a biological need?

S: No. I didn’t have a child because I have to but because I wanted to. Hope that answers it. And i think we are not biologically similar to God.

V: Since we are not biologically similar to god, can I compare this more to keeping a goldfish than having a baby? Or a scientific experiment.

S: More like a gardener tending his garden.

V: So would you also be willing to consider the possibility of other life forms in other planets/galaxies/universes?

S: May be.

V:  Ok. Since most gardeners don’t just have one plant. What about the possibility of other hyper evolved alien species which may have similar advanced capabilities like the God that created humans or our universe?

S: No idea

V: I didn’t understand. Am not asking if there are other alien races. Am asking if you think that is a possibility.

S: Ok. Anything is possible. I can’t say anything about it because there is nothing for or against it in any of our literature or school of thought.

V: Let’s step into science a little bit okay?

S: Yep

V: Would you say you are scientific? have a scientific bent of mind that is

S: Sure

V: Why do you think so?

S: I believe in everything that reason and logic attest to.

V: What is it that appeals to you about science?

S: No appeal. i think we are rational and logical beings and so we follow.

V: Since I also know you to be a man of faith, what is the weakness or gap in science that you feel faith addresses?

S: So gaps that faith can address? Many right.. ?? How about these for example:

1) Existential Truth: Science cannot prove that you aren’t merely a brain in a jar being manipulated to think this is all actually happening. (Think of something like in “The Matrix”.) It also cannot prove that the world wasn’t created 5 minutes ago with the appearance of age (and with fake memories in your head, and half-digested food in your stomach, etc). However it’s still rational to believe that our memories are true and that the world is real.

2) Moral Truth: Science cannot prove that rape is evil. While it is possible to demonstrate, for example, that there are negative physical or psychological effects of rape, there is no scientific test that can prove it is evil. Science can describe how the natural world is, but moral truth carries an “oughtness” (how things should be) about it that goes beyond what merely is.

3) Logical Truth: Consider the statement “Science is the only way to really know truth.” How could you prove that statement by science? It is actually self-refuting because there is no scientific test you could use to prove that it is true! Science cannot prove logic to be true because it assumes and requires logic in order for it to work.

4) Historical Truth: Science cannot prove that Barack Obama won the 2008 United States presidential election. There is no scientific test we could perform to prove it. We could have an investigation if we wanted to confirm that he did actually win, but the method for proving historical truths is different from testing scientific truths since historical truths are by nature non-repeatable.

5) Experiential Truth: Science cannot prove that your spouse loves you. When asked why so-and-so loves you, you may cite precedent (times when their behavior demonstrates their love for you) but this is a particular type of historical truth. There is no scientific test that can confirm a lifetime of experience of knowing a person.

V: If I can flip the question around; Faith is a ‘wildcard’ (to use a computer term). i.e. you can use it to explain everything. So my question to you is, what are the gaps in faith that also makes you turn to science?

S: You are looking at both of them as different operating systems for one purpose…and trying to chose the best..I dont see them that way.

Can we apply this question to reason and emotions. I think not. in the same way science is different and faith is different. they are not trying to answer the samething..although they might overlap a lot.

V: fair enough.I don’t want to jump into religion just yet, but want to touch upon it for a bit, If the creator(s) – a supernatural being, alien race, or whatever created the universe, Is there a chance that it is dead?

S: Death is the end of biological life. So I don’t think we apply that concept to supernatural being s. I think that this being is an infinite being. No death.

…to be continued