Invisible, Incomprehensible Gods (was: Time and Minds)

From: Mitch Howe (
Date: Sun Sep 23 2001 - 01:59:59 MDT

There are still plenty of religiously-minded individuals who avoid totally disregarding common sense and rational thought, clinging as it were to a few rocky isles that remain in a rapidly rising sea of general knowledge. How? There are a limited number of God concepts that, while impossible to prove, are not completely discredited by the use of logic and scientific observation. But these concepts have the fundamental weakness of being quite useless to humanity; They offer no answer to the question of "how should a man live?", no method or even hope of invoking divine intervention, and no explanations for anything that happens at scales we can comprehend. A couple of these concepts, by my reckoning, are as follows:

Tinker God:
    --He created the universe in the sense that he was responsible for the Big Bang, perhaps with some broad, unknown purpose in mind, and confines himself to passively observing the mess he made. It could even be an experiment of some kind. This harks back to the "Great Clockmaker" idea dating back at least as far as the Renaissance, and it may be familiar to some readers of Arthur C. Clarke.

Pool-Shark God:
    --A variation on the above deity who also confines himself to passive observation, but can be said to have an active role because all of his actions were omnisciently planned for in his chosen method of activating the Big Bang itself. Like a skilled break at the start of a billiards game, by knowing exactly where every energy particle would be and where it would be headed, he set initial conditions to cause every little thing to work out exactly the way he intended it to -- whatever that was. (This idea may well be weakened by the seemingly arbitrary randomness "observed" at the grainiest levels of reality yet studied.)

Both of these god concepts do not reveal the purpose of creation and thus fall short of providing any answers to recently evolved intelligences in the far corner of just one of millions of galaxies. They do allow for some extension into intriguing other possibilities however, such as Gods who reveal themselves, for good or ill, only to post-singularity superintelligences:

Gardener God:
    --God as pragmatic tender of a universal garden. No gardener would fret about a single bacteria (humanity now?) living on the mite living on the aphid living on the tomato plant, but might take the time to trim or weed that has grown out of control, or harvest the succulent fruit of a vine. Whether the product of a human singularity would be so significant as a plant in the scale of the universe is unknowable -- but it can be chilling to speculate on what the "trimming" would be like should the result be more weed than fruit vine. This concept provides a possible explanation for why we see no evidence of a Sysop or nano-tech capable civilization despite the mathematical probability that such a civilization has existed previously and would likely have left its mark here already.

Prime-Directive Star God:
    This is the beaten horse carcass that says greater intelligence does exist, has left its mark across our corner of the universe, but has its own reasons for saving the introductions until a certain level of technological or mental savvy has been achieved and self-annihilation avoided. The "glad you could make it, join the club" kind of god concept. This is another possible explanation for why we seem to be alone in spite of all the odds.

Both these god concepts share the same Purpose Unknown weakness as the others above, but with the additional weakness of a seemingly perverse and deliberate disregard for individual suffering despite interest in civilizations at the superintelligence/galaxy-spanning level. Such a god would not merely be incomprehensible, but reprehensible as well, at least to human ways of thinking.

So, in any case, it seems likely that either there is no god or that at least no god will ever be shown to exist to pre-singularity humanity. Singularity increases the possibility that some god would manifest itself -- perhaps it will be something of our own creation. Therefore (this a crude and pretentious jump of logic I'm making), those truly interested in finding and knowing God ought to be seriously interested in fostering singularity. Sure, it could mean that some cosmic pruning scissors blast humanity back to the stone age or wipe it out entirely, but these bleak futures await us anyway if we never climb off this global island, if singularity never occurs. Why not take the only truly promising shot at something genuinely better? The engineers of Babel knew what they were doing -- Moore's Law just hadn't furnished any useful hardware yet.

--Mitch Howe

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