God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed God.
‘Is God Dead?’ was the cover story of Time magazine on April 8, 1966. This referred to the famous quote “God is dead”, from the book, The Gay Science, by Nietzsche, a German philosopher.
‘God is dead’ meant that society didn’t need God. God didn’t make human lives meaningful anymore. God was no longer the cause of the mysteries of nature.
Who or what made God dead?
It was science that dethroned God. The scientific revolution brought about a distinction between faith and reason. Science married reason and abandoned faith. And reason demanded evidence for every fact. Reason could not accept anything as real unless it was observable and measurable. Reason hated faith for it considered faith as the door to illusions, hallucinations and religious superstitions. And in the process, reason killed God because God was not measurable or observable. God was thrown out of the game of life.
But, can all reality be proved by evidence? Is evidence-based science not presuming that reality must be measurable and observable?
Beyond Proof—Self-evident Truths
Certain facts of life cannot be proved by evidence and yet are real. They are more real than reality. They are absolute. They are self-evident truths, without which life simply ends.
The Experience of Love
Before the 19th century, love was the sole property of philosophy. Science had nothing to do with it because science dealt with observable and measurable facts.
Then in the late 19th century, brain technology advanced. There were cat scans and MRIs. Suddenly scientists could see the brain, its molecules and chemicals. They could correlate these chemicals with emotions and love. Science now had a tool to examine love by measuring and observing chemicals.
But what sense do we make of love, the experience of love, as chemicals in the brain? The experience of love is beyond proof. It does not need any evidence. Experience itself is the evidence. It is self-evident.
Even if, one day, science can map all the brain cells and chemicals, still they will be unable to replicate the experience of love or understand anything about it. It’s just like understanding a piano and the music it produces, cannot give the experience of music.
The great physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, said,
I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of the experience in a magnificently consistent order but it is vastly silent about all that is really near to our heart that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight. It knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, god and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
Friedrich Hayek, a Nobel laureate in Economics, said,
Methods of physical science are completely inappropriate to study human actions and society. Many have tried but failed to understand social construct, social workings in terms of the scientific method of proof by evidence.
Love is also a social phenomenon in the sense that at least two persons or more are required. According to Friedrich Hayek, love cannot be understood by scientific evidence. The experience of love is beyond proof. Yet it is real. It is a self-evident truth and is absolute.
The Awareness of One’s Own Existence
As with love, our own consciousness was a very elusive subject in the first part of the 19th century. Scientists did not talk about it.
But in the latter part of the 19th century as brain technology advanced, like love, consciousness studies entered the realm of science. Through scans, science then tried to understand consciousness by examining the areas of the brain responsible for conscious awareness.
So what did scientists find when they looked inside the brain for proof of consciousness?
In his 1975 book entitled The Mystery of the Mind, neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield said,
For my own part, after years of striving to explain the mind on the basis of brain action alone, I have come to the conclusion that it is simpler and far easier to be logical, if one adopts the hypothesis that a being does consist of two fundamental elements, consciousness and the brain, because it seems to be certain that it will always be quite impossible to explain the mind on the basis of neural actions in the brain.
In his recent book, Neural Theories of Mind, Dr. William Uttal, a neuroscientist, claims,
We haven’t a clue as to how the mind or consciousness emerges from the brain. The overarching conclusion that can be drawn from virtually all these commentators, as aptly done by Blacks Lee, is that we do not yet know the answer to the great question: how the brain makes mind or consciousness?
In fact, philosopher Rebecca Goldstein writes,
Consciousness has always been a hard problem for science, especially the experience part of consciousness. Sure, consciousness is a matter of matter. What else could it be since that’s what we are? But still, the fact that some hunks of matter have an inner life is unlike any other property of matter that we have yet encountered, much less accounted for. The laws of matter and motion can produce all this. Suddenly matter wakes up and takes in the world. Suddenly matter has an attitude, a point of view, and a fantasy in life.
Goldstein is asking, how can matter produce consciousness? Since consciousness means the experience of self, how can matter experience? How can neurons in the brain, which are made of chemicals and electrical circuits, have an experience of something?
The experience of consciousness is beyond proof. It doesn’t need evidence and yet it is a reality to all of us. We are all conscious. We cannot deny it. It is a self-evident truth.
A Math Puzzle?
The language of science is math. Science uses math to ascertain evidence, in turn establishing reality. But the question is, ‘Can math prove everything?’
The surprise is that even math cannot be proved by evidence.
For example, mathematical axioms. Axioms are statements that are taken to be true. The word comes from the Greek word axioma ‘that which commends itself as evident.’ Two parallel lines never bisect each other is an axiom. It is a universal truth. A self-evident fact is true without any proof. Without axioms, there would be no math. And without math, no science. So, even scientific proofs are based on self-evident truths.
Like mathematical axioms, there are mathematical principles that are self-evident.
Mathematician Alain Cones writes,
Take prime numbers, for example, which are as far as I’m concerned, constitute a more stable reality than the material reality that surrounds us. The work of mathematicians can be likened to an explorer who sets out to discover the world.
According to him, math is not subjective ideas in our heads. Math is an objective reality. The job of a mathematician is to access that reality. Plato, the Greek philosopher, said that there are mathematical principles that are simply there; they’re self-evident.
Roger Penrose, the English mathematical physicist, commented,
Like Mount Everest, the Mandelbrot set is just there.” The Mandelbrot set is a mathematical principle and he continued, “It is just there. There’s something absolute and God-given in all mathematical truth.
In fact, G.H. Hardy, the famous 20th-century mathematician, professed,
I will state my own position dogmatically. I believed that mathematical reality lies outside us, that our function is to discover or observe it and that the theorems which we prove and which we describe grandiloquently as our creations, are simply the notes of our observation.
Kurt Gödel, a mathematician and philosopher, declared,
It is mathematically proved that you cannot prove math.
So, in its foundation, math is a self-evident truth. It’s absolute. Mathematical axioms don’t need evidence.
Science must accept that everything cannot be proved by evidence. Certain realities like love, consciousness, and mathematical axioms must be accepted as they are, not on the basis of evidence but on the basis of existence. They simply are.
Scriptures inform us that God is a self-evident truth. He is absolute. And we can all experience Him in self-evident truths of this world. Poets, therefore, glorify love and consciousness as God. God mercifully shared His quality of ‘self-evident’ with certain realities and created them beyond all proofs.
Why did He do so?
For humans to introspect and marvel at the self-evidence of such truths and thereby come to the conclusion that a supreme self-evident truth, God, exists. Such self-evident truths indirectly indicate the presence of God. God, in fact, helps us, humans, to perceive Him and to strive to experience and contact Him.
For open-minded people, God is still alive even in this scientific age.
God is still not dead!