Blind Faith

I believe; help my unbelief.  (Mark 9:24)

If you come upon a rock in a field, you probably won't spend much time wondering how it got there, unless you happen to be a geologist.  But if you come upon a watch in a field, you might stop and pick it up, knowing it didn't get there by itself.  Even if you just arrived from another planet, you might  reasonably surmise that the watch must have had a maker.   This essentially is the famous "watchmaker argument" put forward by the theologian William Paley in the early 19th century.  If it is reasonable to conclude that an artifact like a watch has a maker, then how can we not say the same for living creatures, which are far more intricately designed than a watch?

Now suppose one of our Martian rovers comes upon a crude stone tool while exploring that planet.  We might reasonably surmise that there once must have been intelligent life on Mars.  Why are we now so reluctant to take the argument a step further?  If a crude stone tool is a sign of intelligent life, what conclusions can we draw about a universe that produces creatures capable of finding such an artifact while exploring another planet?      

William Paley's "watchmaker argument" was highly influential at a time when the scientific community still looked to nature for evidence of an intelligent creator.  One of Paley's admirers was Charles Darwin, who borrowed his idea that organisms were adapted to their environment.  However, Darwin theorized that a blind process of natural selection could account for adaptation; thus, you didn't need a divine creator to explain the intricate design of the natural order.

The prevailing scientific view is that elementary particles assembled themselves over the course of eons into atoms and self-replicating molecules and creatures capable of searching for signs of intelligent life on other planets.  Despite giving every appearance of having been purposefully designed, the universe is supposed to have produced these marvelous effects through the random action of physical laws alone.  If true, the result would be no less improbable than a man walking on water or rising from the dead. 

It is no more scientific to insist the universe created itself than to say God created it; either way, you have to take it on faith.  You might think it is still the same universe, no matter how you look at it.  But that is not entirely true.  It is our belief that determines how the world presents itself to us.  Or as the physicist Werner Heisenberg expressed it: "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." 

As Heisenberg well understood, reality is not a fixed entity but a dynamic possibility.  Belief locks in a particular view of reality, making it extremely difficult to see things any other way.  It's not simply that we refuse to entertain other points of view; they may literally be invisible to us.  A scientist with a trained eye may fail to observe things in a microscope that are plainly visible to those who don't know what they are supposed to be looking at.  Likewise, a person who firmly believes there is a God in heaven may fail to see him anywhere else. 

"All things are possible to him who believes," Jesus said -- but he wasn't talking about dogmatic belief as we now understand it.  He was calling on people to suspend their disbelief so they could see what was staring them in the face.  "You have seen me and yet you do not believe," he chided them.  He healed a blind man who saw him and believed.  But the religious authorities refused to accept that the man had been healed and were rebuked for their blindness.  For those who have been blinded by faith, there is really only one remedy: to find God you have to get beyond mere belief.     

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