God, His Laws and Mankind
29 January, 1999
Author: George Irbe
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There is and always will be a limit to what we know for certain. The very simple question of what existed before the beginning - to some theorists the beginning is the "Big Bang" of creation - is so overwhelming that it compels us to accept on faith alone an unquestionable and inscrutable power - the Creator - who was there before the beginning. That is why I had to say to myself, in my youth when like most young people I was pondering the existence or non-existence of God, that even if I adamantly denied Gods existence, it would make no difference to him or to his grand Creation.
I do believe in a Creator who we call God. God cannot be personified or even conceived of as a material entity. But our human ideation and language compels us to use admittedly inadequate designations; otherwise it would be nearly impossible to refer to that which we conceive of as the Creator. I do not use the pronoun he in the anthropomorphic sense; therefore I have no need to engage in dispute with others who may prefer to use she or it. My belief in God is nearly identical to that of Mortimer J. Adler's. I think that I go further than Adler along the path of pure faith in that I believe that God acts, at all times and on all things, through his Laws. Adler, to my understanding, is moot on this point. Still, Adler's little, but powerful, book: How to Think About God has been my most invaluable guide to a clear understanding of how I conceive of God. I base my understanding, first of all, on the same definition of God as the medieval philosopher Anselm and Mortimer Adler: "God is a being that which no greater can be thought of."
With the growth of insight into the intricacies of this Creation, our philosopher-scientists can affirm with growing conviction based on evidence that an intelligent master force is at work here. Sir Karl Popper writes in The Self and Its Brain (Ch.3, Sec.18):
... the greatest riddle of cosmology may well be neither the original big bang, nor the problem why there is something rather than nothing (it is quite possible that these problems may turn out to be pseudoproblems), but that the universe is, in a sense, creative: that it created life, and from it mind - our consciousness - which illuminates the universe, and which is creative in its turn. It is one of the high points in Herbert Feigl's Postscript  to his essay The 'Mental' and the 'Physical' when he relates how, in a conversation, Einstein said something like this: "If there were not this internal illumination, the universe would merely be a rubbish heap."
We must marvel at the very existence of life in all its myriad forms. From the cited work by Karl Popper, again, (Ch.1, Sec.8):
... the probability or propensity of any atom, taken at random in the universe, to become (within a chosen unit of time) part of a living organism, has always been and still is indistinguishable from zero. Popper states that we cannot give an explanation for the origin of life, and concludes: The amount of knowledge recently acquired about genes and enzymes, and what appears to be minimum conditions of life, is staggering. Nevertheless, it is just this detailed knowledge which suggests that the difficulties in the way of an explanation of the origin of life may be insuperable ... Much speaks in favour of the view that the event was unique.
Gerald L. Schroeder states categorically in The Science of God (pg. 124):
We have discovered over the past few decades that the exquisitely tuned laws of nature produce these wondrous manipulations in the genome. ... These wonders of the genome have changed our understanding of the processes underlying "evolution", processes no longer viewed as arising simply from random events. Our universe, tuned so accurately for the needs of intelligent life, indeed ticks to the beat of a very skillful Watchmaker.
Continuing with the analogy, this Watchmaker is also a supreme designer. He first created, some 530 million years ago, an immense blueprint and all the essential parts -- the building blocks -- for the design of any and all forms of life, past, present and future. The process that we call 'evolution' merely selects and activates these building blocks -- the genes -- in different combinations. As Shroeder writes on pg. 89 of The Science of God
Sponges, rotifers, annelids, arthropods, primitive fish, and all the other body plans represented in the thirty-four animal phyla extant today appear as a single burst in the fossil record [Burgess shale]. And it happened 530 million years ago. Those are the data. No one disputes them.
Based on radioactive dating of rocks that bracket the Cambrian explosion, the development occurred within a period of five million years. The sediment deposits of the five-million-year span are at places 300 meters thick. Throughout the depth of this sediment, and therefore over the entire five million years, there is little or no change in the morphologies of these animals. In a leap, life moved from single-celled protozoa and the amorphous Ediacaran clumps to multicellular complexity. According to the fossil record as we currently know it, the simultaneity was literally true.
I too believe in that very skillful Watchmaker and that God's creative genius is without limits, and that all of his works, including the chaos he may ordain to happen, have a design and are subject to his Laws. All of his Laws are clearly manifested in his creation, and are for us to observe, understand, and obey. Some of the Laws we have inscribed on stone and paper and we have prescribed man-made punishment for the breaking of them. We have left other Laws unwritten, for our consciences to cope with. Sadly, it is the unwritten Laws, for the breaking of which we answer only to the Creator, that we disregard and disobey most often, much to our detriment as individuals and as a species.
I believe that all human beings are equal before God; there are no favoured elites, no chosen people. Whether one acknowledges the perpetual and impartial control by the Creator over everything, as I do, or denies it like an atheist, or claims to have privileged access to him through a particular religious dogma, we all are in fact subject to the same Laws and to the same rewards and consequences that are our due for our freely willed actions.
Physiologically, we differ little from other higher life forms on Earth. Our only exceptional gift from God is our superior intelligence; our free will whereby to exercise it is a generous dispensation from him. Only by our free will are we in some measure autonomous. With the grant of the superior intelligence man was also granted the capability to understand the functions of the Laws, and the great privilege to comply with the Laws voluntarily. God has thus placed a great trust in us - one could also say that he has taken a risky gamble - that we would exercise our free will intelligently and in accord with the Laws, which demand of us (for our own good!) respect, moderation, kindness and justice toward each other and no less toward the rest of his creation.
It is understandable and excusable that man was ignorant of the Laws at the dawn of his intelligence. But today, no longer can man's non-compliance with the Laws be excused by a lack of his understanding of them, as it could be at the beginning of man's ascendance. Today, there is not one primitive, ignorant society of humankind left that cannot be reached and taught by our most knowledgeable and enlightened members. Where the various societies of men spurn such knowledge and enlightenment and all do, to varying degrees - men stand and act in cognizant defiance of the Laws.
Man's intelligence has led him to a reasoned observation that all things external to his own soul, that is, everything beyond the transcendental component of his own consciousness, and certainly all things known to him so far, invariably follow God's Laws - also known in their composite as Natural Law. For his own nefarious reasons, man has divided the body of Natural Law into two parts: a) laws that govern the physical creation, which he recognizes as given, and b) the laws of ethics and morals, which the Creator has set for him as a condition for giving him intelligence and free will, which man challenges and disobeys.
Man had a reason for rending the Natural Law corpus into two parts. As man became aware of his superiority over other life forms and as he learned that this superiority was due not to greater physical prowess but to his greater intelligence, he decided to willfully misinterpret God's purposes. Man had the egocentric presumptuousness to claim, and like a shyster to write the false claim into his "holy books", that God had exempted him from compliance with the Laws that apply to the rest of his Creation, and that God had granted man absolute dominion over everything on Earth, including absolute powers to dispose of all other things, living or inanimate, without measure, without limits, without mercy, and without accountability. So it is that while - by Natural Law - most living things, save perhaps the most primitive, kill other living things only in order that they themselves can live and propagate, man kills in excess of his needs and simply for pleasure, to boot. And man is also wont to use false premises upon which to invoke Natural Law or religious righteousness in order to justify the killing of his own kind.
Almost daily, man is broadening his sight and reach into the Grand Creation and gaining new understanding about it. But in spite of his intelligence and growing knowledge, he remains contemptuous of living things and thus in contempt of God. By now, man does have sufficient understanding of the natural interconnectedness of all things, including himself. He should regard all life, not only that of his own kind, as sacred creation; he should treat living things with respect and destroy them only out of great necessity - for his own nourishment and in order to protect his own health and safety. He should respect the needs for natural, unspoiled living space by other living things on this Earth.
Until that day when man acknowledges all life to be a miracle of God's creation and treats it with reverence, will he remain at odds with his Creator. By breaking the Laws man continues down the road that leads to his eventual perdition.
Having as many character flaws as the next man, and more, I have not always tried my utmost, and have failed many a time, to live in accordance with the Laws. And I know that I have suffered and will suffer the consequences for that. Yes, I believe in the exquisite justness of God's Laws and regard them as sacred. God makes them plainly visible and understandable to us throughout his Creation. We need only to observe and heed the lessons.
Contrary to the wishful thinking of too many of the human race, God, through his Laws, always administers consequences commensurate with our actions - good or bad - and the consequences are irreversible. They are not negotiable after the fact. They are good when we obey the Laws, bad when we disobey or disregard them. Nor can these Laws be circumvented by passing them through a religious filter. Religious fantasies are man's invention for selfish egocentric purposes. Religion serves to muddle our understanding of the Laws, and provides pretexts for breaching them. There is this that I have always known with absolute certainty: be it as individuals or as mankind as a whole, we are good, do good, and have it good only when we obey the Creator's Laws.
It is reassuring to know that the same has been said a long time ago, but so much better, by that respected Roman lawyer Cicero (106-43 BCE), in his book Laws he attributed the following statement to a man named Laelius:
'True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need to look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchallengeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.'
The philosopher Karl Popper and neurologist John Eccles have demonstrated to my satisfaction that our Self is an incorporeal, ethereal presence in our body, and that the Self is in command of our organic brain. If this Self - our soul - is our personal transcendental spiritual core, and if, as I would believe with John Eccles and many others, this core survives our physical death, then upon our physical death it must migrate to another dimension of God's creation. There is no knowing where or what that dimension might be, or indeed - whether there are an infinite number of possible dimensions, much like what is true of so many other aspects of God's creation. Maybe the soul continues on as a discrete entity, or maybe it merges with the whole of creation. That is for the living to speculate about and for the dead perhaps to know, perhaps not. Even so, I would like to think that something of me survives to go on to a new state of being. And if that something that continues on is a discrete soul, then I hope it journeys to a dimension where the breaking of God's Laws is unknown.
However that may be, humans would do well to show less concern for the hereafter and more for their time spent on Earth. It is wrong to use the hereafter - called "heaven" by many - as an escape clause from the only contract with God that we know we have for sure. This contract obliges us to treat all of God's creation here on Earth according to God's Laws. Homo sapiens continues to break the Laws at the peril of extinction for himself and most other life on Earth.
Perhaps it hardly matters to the endless, eternal domain of God's creation what happens here on one insignificant speck of it that we call the Earth. Not long ago we observed for the first time the awesome spectacle of a comet crashing into Jupiter. Since then we have become very conscious of the fact that similar cataclysmic events have happened on Earth in the past, extinguishing most of the higher life forms for ages, and we are now keeping a close watch on space and identifying an increasing number of large asteroids whose orbits intersect that of Earth. One asteroid of a size to do catastrophic damage missed the Earth by only 6 hours on March 23, 1989; we know that another one is going to pass close to Earth in 2028. We now certainly understand that the Creator could snuff us out at his pleasure.
Maybe it is time mankind stops regarding itself as something very special. It is not. It is also time for man to shed all religious dogmas that preach a concoction of self-serving notions of exclusivity and privileged status in Gods creation for the "believers", and promote hate-breeding attitudes toward those who are not. It is time for mankind to acknowledge the Creator and his Laws simply and honestly, in thoughts and by deeds, each person within ones own soul, not in temples and shrines. It is time to smarten up, time for teachers to teach and the ignorant to open their minds and learn.
Albert Einstein wrote in The Religious Spirit of Science, in Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, (1934):
You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religiosity of the naive man. For the latter, God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands, so to speak, in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe.
But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.
Men face the long-delayed fulfillment of the obligation to understand and acknowledge the Creator and his Laws on a personal level and as a species. On the personal level we must act ethically and morally toward other people and in our treatment and use of all the rest of Creation. As a species we must discard forever the primitive superstitions and learn from our Einsteins about the workings of that harmonious natural law and the superior intelligence they speak of. We need not worship" God. Rather we must adopt this plain and honest attitude toward God, as individuals and as the whole of mankind. But will we? Living up to the ethical and moral standards of the Laws in our relationship as individuals to other individuals is the easier to do: it is an obligation each person can undertake for their own betterment. Observing the Laws of good stewardship in our relationship as a species toward the Earth in general, and other living things in particular appears near to impossible for men to do. That is why I know that, were I to become a paragon of moral rectitude in my relationship with other people, I would still continue daily to violate - collectively, as a member of Homo sapiens - the Creators Laws of stewardship. Those Laws we all disregard, for the sake of a cozy life, abundantly supplied with energy and resources.
I suspect that it is only because we are so insignificant in the grand scheme of things that God risked giving us a free will. Whether one subscribes to the creationist or evolutionary theory, there is more evidence for than there is against the quite reasonable proposition that man has been, so far, an inconclusive, if not a failed, experiment. Actually, only a small percentage of the species have ever approached in practice the standards that would qualify them to make the preposterous claim of being God's most perfect achievement. Yet, that is the claim that has been made with impudence by the vast majority of humans, some going so far as to claim that they are made "in Gods image", even while by word and action they have always proven to be imbecilic, selfish, wanton and wasteful. The millennia of mankinds recorded history speak to that. There is not a scintilla of evidence to indicate that human nature is about to change anytime soon.
But change it must, if mankind is to have any hope of avoiding the dire consequences in store for the breaking of the Laws. It will call for a draconian discipline of self-restraint by the whole of mankind to get accustomed to living in compliance with the Laws. Alas, self-restraint is the virtue that man is in short supply of in the most advanced as well as the most primitive of his societies on Earth. To reiterate: the Laws demand of us respect, moderation, kindness and justice toward each other and no less toward the rest of Gods creation, if we are to prosper as a species.
It is not as if we are completely without a light that would guide us out of the darkness of the soul. It is time we uncovered and gave prominence to that flickering flame of inspired thought that was lit by the Greeks some 2400 years ago. In my opinion, that thought took the first steps in the right direction that the Creator would like to see us go. We must return to that path, and that path only, and take the next steps in the journey.
On a personal level, I am also thankful to Adler for guiding me to the most prominent of the Greeks who lit the flame and pointed the way. That man is Aristotle. Mortimer J. Adler is perhaps the most thorough scholar of Aristotle's philosophy ever. And if there ever was a teacher who told us what our Creator expected from each of us, it was Aristotle, although he never pretended to be a high priest nor pretended to speak on behalf of the Creator God. Aristotle taught us that what we all ultimately seek in life is happiness. Aristotelian happiness is akin to the "state of grace". It is attained only by those who live a virtuous life. According to Aristotle, "When a man bears patiently a number of heavy disasters, not because he does not feel them but because he has a high and generous nature, his nobility shines through", and, "No man who is truly happy can become miserable; because he will never do things that are hateful and mean. For we believe that the truly good and wise man bears all his fortunes with dignity, and always takes the most honourable course that circumstances permit."
I do not expect to convince others to think and believe as I do. We are all independent souls. Each person must take their own steps, only on their own volition and at their own pace, to learn from the open book of Gods Creation what is right and what is wrong to do. I do the best I can to conduct my life according to these obligations, expecting no special rewards from God, but only his recognition that this soul this Self means well. And by trying my best, by meaning well, I feel good and secure that I will have Gods understanding and approval.
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