Friday, August 05, 2005

On miracles and radish seeds

Barry, our much appreciated resident theist, offers two reasons for his belief in God.

He refers to recent developments in cosmology and particle physics. I presume he means the big bang. First of all, if I were going to believe in a personal God, I wouldn't base my belief on anything in science. By this time next century the big bang might be history, and gaps in science have a way of being filled. It is certainly true, however, that we do not yet have a scientific explanation for the origin of the singularity from which the universe seems to have emerged. Barry says "God." The scientific naturalist says "I don't know."

Second, Barry evokes his own answered prayers. A child is sick. I ask God's help. The child recovers. Therefore, God exists. Might I point out that every double blind test for the effectiveness of petitionary prayer has shown no significant positive result (and, yes, I've read the paper of Randolph Byrd, etc.). The most basic difference between a true believer and a skeptic is one's attitude towards anecdotal evidence.

There are many reasons to be in awe of this world, to wonder at the transforming power of love, to honor the beautiful and the good. And, yes, there is enough mystery in a single radish seed or in the red admiral butterflies I saw yesterday on Mount Eagle to make me fall to my knees. I don't need the big bang or answered prayers to live a life of celebration.