What if Belief in a Higher Power is Not Belief in Anything Supernatural?

I happen to believe in a higher power but do not believe in anything supernatural. I'm sure this has a lot to do with my coming to my belief as a fairly science literate, science positive person who spent most of his life as an atheist. If I believe that a thing exists, I then see it as an aspect of nature, not a thing outside of it.

If, like myself, you except the tenets of evolution,all products of humanity are products of nature, as human nature is a facet of nature. All written and spoken languages, music, visual art, technology, philosophy, and so on, are results of The Big Bang.

If you could go back in time a couple hundred years with a functioning smart phone, I don't think you would have much difficulty convincing most people, who would yet to have even seen a photograph, that this device which produces music, photos, video, and that facilitates both written and spoken long distance communication, was the product of wizardy, when, of course, we all know that the phone is merely a product of technology.

As for my belief in a higher power, it has a lot to do with my feeling that, as any atheist will tell you, nature and evolution unfold at random. I read up on one experiment designed to demonstrate how random construction occurs. Take a tumbler and insert some nuts and bolts and let her rip. and after a time, some of the nuts and bolts will begin to thread together. This demonstrates how nature has eventually resulted in such as Earth and life and you and I at random. What I have derived from studying chaos theory is an understanding of order and what you might call disorder as things that exist in degrees, and that seem to exist to some degree simultaneously in everything, including manufactured objects that may appear identical to us, but are not really identical. Same with twins, fingerprints, snowflakes, and so on. In chaos there is nonlinear order, the blending of things like symmetry and asymmetry. Any group of trees, clouds, or peaks and valleys in a mountain range, or people, has degrees of similarity, and characteristics that make them recognizable for what they are. Yet they are all also distinct. Not identical. That's nonlinear order.

In terms of looking at nature, you can look at all of its random aspects, and say that there is no element of intention in them. But I sincerely believe, without an issue with things like evolution, that this is only looking at one aspect of a duality. There is randomness, (And distinction and individuality) everywhere in everything, but there is also symmetry, similarity, patterns, and order. If you only look at those things you may convince yourself that everything was meticulously designed, which is not what I believe. I think that the circumstances happen to be in place by which order, complexity, evolution, and life, obviously could come to be, but also that they were inevitable because of the degree of order and the degree of likelihood of our eventuality, as well as any and all other life, here and elsewhere. I think, then, that life does not exist as a weird anomaly, but as an inevitability of the laws that govern nature and which science examines, explores, and describes. And I do not think of this in terms of "intelligent design" in the usual sense.

Getting back to that tumbler and the nuts and bolts, where by analogy did the tumbler of the universe come from? It came from a Big Bang. And why was there that Big Bang? Well who the hell knows? Why also did it happen to result in a universe which, very early into its projected life span, has resulted in all that is, including all order, complexity, and life? The experimenter with the tumbler does not stop the tumbling and reach in and screw the nuts and bolts together, which is what people usually mean by intelligent design. Design intervention, if you will. However, that tumbler itself was designed and manufactured, as were the nuts and bolts with their matching threads. A power source for the tumbler was made available and it was accessed. The tumbler was plugged in. And then someone put those matching nuts and bolts into the tumbler and threw the switch. Otherwise, no random threading of some of the nuts and bolts. Why not instead pour yogurt into the tumbler, or a drawer full of silverware, or just leave it empty and let it run?

Well maybe you get a sense of where I am coming from anyway. VERY long winded. An outrage I say! Burn this man at the stake!

Tags: chaos, complexity, evolution, nonlinear, order, randomness

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And Mike Donohoe says:

"Hi. I would suggest The Planck Length, the smallest particle in existence."

What???

Mike where did you get the idea that a Plank Length was a particle and not a measurement of distance?

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BTW, great site: http://www.sixtysymbols.com/

Hello. Thanks for the replies. (You pointy eared hobgoblins! Couldn't resist.:) A cursory glance reveals a  trend toward people saying "Hey, of course evolution is not random!" In relation to that I would point out that evolutionary terminology is constantly applied to many life supporting factors that have come about prior to living things. All of this in a universe estimated to be some 13.8 billion years old, and, that we know of so far, on a planet approximately one third the age of a cosmos expected to go on for trillions upon trillions of years, yet. Less than a blink of "god's" eye.

You have the gravity driven formation of stars, and star clusters and galaxies. Hydrogen happens to have the potential to cook into everything you need to facilitate the existence of a planet like Earth, and the stuff of which life is comprised. In the process of doing this the stars are burning themselves up and succumbing to what Hawking defines as "disorder," that process of entropy which turns once viable hydrogen fuel into carbon, among other things, expended star fuel without which we carbon based life forms could not exist. Disorder? Hm.Disorder for the dead stars, anyway. 

Stars also happen to then make all this life stuff available when some of them go nova in a sort of petite mort that wends toward an ultimate projected state of maximum entropy known as the heat death. Nature then happens to have whipped that stuff into Earth and life, this planet which happens to be in a Goldilocks zone as a part of the solar system. All of this from scratch before you can even talk about any element of intention or direction in living things. Some of the factors that make me say "This was no boating accident." I do think that energy literally evolves prior to what biologists define as life. 

I am technically most liken-able to a panentheist, one who, like a pantheist, believes that nature is "god," but that nature comes from a greater source. (Naturally, mind you.) As for giving a name to that higher power, well that's what religions attempt to do, I guess. They are fairy tales, but there is a great deal of truth in fairy tales when one understands them as symbolism and metaphor.  I am partial to Gaea, and on a far grander scale, Amun/Ammon/Amen. Believed by the ancient Egyptians to have been the source for a "Big Bang" of sorts. Or maybe say that my higher power put the nuts and bolts into that tumbler that is the laws of thermodynamics.

I think a creator would go about setting a random chaotic evolutionary universe into motion because that, rather than a control freak watchmaker, is how you would result in autonomous beings with free will rather than wind up toys with painted smiles on their faces.

I think faith and reason can compliment each other, and that some element of it is necessary to get even the most hard nosed atheist out of bed every day. Maybe gravity is God. (And I have this notion that it might be an equal and opposite reaction to The Big Bang, a pulling together of things even as they scatter outward.) Happy Easter.

Maybe gravity is god? Or gaea? There is some truth in fairy tales? Egyptian source of the big bang? Amun? Freak watchmaker? This was no boating accident?

I'm not sure you have one foot in the supernatural and the other foot in the rational as you say you do but instead you are break dancing around a disco-ball whose colours keep changing and whose position can never be determined. Ultimately even if we want to understand what it is you believe we simply cannot grab onto what exactly you're hoping to communicate. I'd honestly like to discuss these ideas but I'm honestly not sure about what I'm supposed to discuss.

are break dancing around a disco-ball

Love that phrase, Davis

How did he know that that is exactly what I would be doing at this moment?!

Mike, I can't decide if you're an extraordinarily poor communicator or a mundane woo generator, but as Doctor McCoy once said: "He talks a lot, but doesn't say much."

My impression is that you're refusing to fully commit yourself (or even make clear) whatever claim you are asserting so that you don't have to support it with reason or evidence.

I am technically most liken-able to a panentheist, one who, like a pantheist, believes that nature is "god," but that nature comes from a greater source. (Naturally, mind you.)

Since panentheism is most like (but is apparently not) your still unspecified claim regarding God, here is a description from Wikipedia:

"In panentheism, God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe. Some versions suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifest part of God. In some forms of panentheism, the cosmos exists within God, who in turn "transcends", "pervades" or is "in" the cosmos. While pantheism asserts that 'All is God', panentheism goes further to claim that God is greater than the universe. In addition, some forms indicate that the universe is contained within God, like in the concept of Tzimtzum. Much Hindu thought is highly characterized by panentheism and pantheism. Hasidic Judaism merges the elite ideal of nullification to paradoxical transcendent Divine Panentheism, through intellectual articulation of inner dimensions of Kabbalah, with the populist emphasis on the panentheistic Divine immanence in everything and deeds of kindness."

But (in your view) that is "naturally, mind you". Whatever that means.

I think a creator would go about setting a random chaotic evolutionary universe into motion because that, rather than a control freak watchmaker, is how you would result in autonomous beings with free will rather than wind up toys with painted smiles on their faces.

I'm not the least bit interested in what you think a creator would do, Mike. The world is teeming with millions of crackpots eager to tell me all about what God would do and what he wants. (At the very least, most of those people can make clear in a few sentences what they are talking about.) Take a number and take a spot at the back of the line.

But if you have some empirical evidence to back up your claim-- if you ever manage to articulate it-- then move to the head of the line and let's see it. I won't hold my breath while I wait.

I think faith and reason can compliment each other, and that some element of it is necessary to get even the most hard nosed atheist out of bed every day. Maybe gravity is God.

I'm not interested in content-free proclamations, Mike, especially where you get off claiming that your faith is a necessity for me as a non-believer, whether to rise in the morning or for any other reason.

By the way: Do you think it's beyond the pale to tell the most devout Jew that he needs some element of faith in Jesus to get out of bed every day? How does this correspond to telling the most ardent atheist that he needs some element of faith in God to rise each day?

You may think your words above are conciliatory, but I find them insulting.

Whoa! Not my faith. Sorry. And is there an implication that I believe in Jesus anywhere? I meant more that even an atheist has faith that there is a point to getting out of bed. Oh I see because I mentioned Easter. I mean you assume your car will start if you have one, and that no buildings or airplanes will land on you on the way to work, and that your company has not gone out of business or eliminated you in downsizing. You have faith in your own faculties. None of which requires faith in God.

Whoa! Not my faith. Sorry.

A few of us have made it clear that you're not being clear.

Insofar as you've stated it, you're a panetheist. Your claim is that God is Nature and what extends beyond Nature. The 'Beyond nature' aspect is essentially supernaturalism (although you're straining rather hard to avoid the term).

And is there an implication that I believe in Jesus anywhere?

Where did I suggest that you had?

Your faith lies, by your own admission, in the God of panetheism. Based on this, and on your muddled description of it, I'm left to think you are applying this kind of faith to me.

But it doesn't matter. You're still wrong. You're still telling me what my position is instead of asking me. Your comments are still an insult.

I meant more that even an atheist has faith that there is a point to getting out of bed. Oh I see because I mentioned Easter. I mean you assume your car will start if you have one, and that no buildings or airplanes will land on you on the way to work, and that your company has not gone out of business or eliminated you in downsizing. You have faith in your own faculties. None of which requires faith in God.

To have faith (in the way you are referencing cars, planes, bankruptcy, etc.) means to think something is true without evidence. To assume is to think something is true without knowing that it is true.

I don't have faith that there is a point to getting out of bed.
I don't have faith that my car will start, nor do I assume that it will.
I don't assume buildings and airplanes won't fall on me.
I don't have faith that my company has not gone out of business and downsized me on my way to work.
I don't have faith in my own faculties.

I have evidence that I have a point in getting out of bed. I have people to see and things I need to do.

I have evidence that my car will start. It's started every day that I've owned it.
Millions of other cars start every day.

I have evidence that buildings and airplanes are extremely unlikely to fall on me. I accept (but don't worry about) the very tiny possibility that they could.

I have evidence that companies rarely shutter their doors and lay off employees overnight. Insofar as they do and that I am aware of it, I accept that each day that I go to work could be my last.

I have evidence that my faculties work. I think, therefore I am. I can walk. I can use my hands and my body. There is no reasonable evidence to the contrary.

I also have evidence that the universe is logical and consistent. That the laws of physics and chemistry and so on (which determine these things) have operated as they have for millions of years. There's no evidence to suggest that tomorrow some or all of those laws will just quit working.

No faith is required. No assumptions are necessary. We have evidence.

Stop comparing the gigantic faith you require to believe in your God of panetheism with the non-existent faith I require to get out of bed in the morning. There is no comparison. I have evidence that I had a point in rising. You have no evidence for your God.

Mike, try and summarize your thoughts buddy.

How about a multiple choice question:This higher power:

1) The HP is inside you,

2)  You are inside the HP, 

3) There is overlap, or

4) HP is strictly external to you? 

Hello, Andy. I did want to mention, as I think applies to many responses here, that the logic based aspect of my view is only one part of it that can be pared down. I think you could argue with pure logic for or against nature being a purely unintentional event. For me, really, the essence of logically questioning atheism, is that anything exists when nothing needed to exist in the first place. Then there is the fact that in a very small percentage of the projected lifespan for the universe, here we are on Earth at our computers. I mean a little under 14 billion years out of trillions upon trillions of years to come? What could be next? In terms of a human life span a very long time but in terms of the cosmos. Big Bang and then Bam! Stars, the solar system, Earth, life, and you and I.

Stars, the solar system, earth, life you and I did not happen suddenly. Each one is an important event which took millions or billions of years to occur. You have left out many many important steps in between each of these as well. And none of them happened in a BAM. They were all very long tedious sloooooow processes...each taking up a significant amount of time that the universe has existed. There is no BAM.

You seem to think that this is part of an evolved process where the next "step" will be one step higher on a ladder and the future is set to go up and up. What about full on extinction? Entropy? A cataclysmic unexpected event? In reality there is no higher or lower step on any ladder. That's just a human centric way of looking at the universe. Of which we know little. Why we need to bring in a man in the sky or a flying giraffe or a twenty armed grand creator to facilitate any of this is beyond me.

I must admit it is difficult for an alpha-male dominated, socially stratified species to conceive that no one is in charge. 

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