Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pandeism and the God of the Gaps

Atheists are quick to point out how theistic conceptions of God have seemingly retreated to smaller and smaller fields in the face of advancing scientific discovery. The flow of the argument is that many things -- the diversity of biology, the experience of illness, the motions of planets and stars in the night sky, lightning and thunder, magnetism -- all have at some historical point attributed to the intentional intervention and action of a deity figure. That these explanations are no longer required suggests that all things still attributed to a deity will recede along the same path, to be discovered as having deity-free roots in the scientifically explicable dynamics of our Universe.

But this attack is inapplicable to Pandeism, for which our Creator has always lain precedent to a meta-explanation of all things discoverable by science. Pandeism is not an instance of a theory being posited to explain what was left after earlier explanations were rendered obsolete. For the pandeistic model finds its roots in the Emanationism known to the ancient Greeks, which preceded even monotheism as a theological model. Under this model, our Universe, our physical experience of existence with all of the phenomena it contains, was posited to have emanated wholesale from a divine being, without that entity having any concern for the nature of the emanation, possibly without our Universe being significant enough a byproduct of its existence for any notice of it to be taken at all. But, fundamental to this proposition is the requirement that all of the physical phenomena of our Universe, the thunder and lightning, the diseases and the seasons and the sunrises, were simply that -- phenomena of our Universe, somehow built into its fragmentary fabric, but in no way requiring resort to the intervention of a deity as an explanation.

This may be visualised by picturing our existence as a big circle. The 'God of the Gaps' argument contends that the whole of the circle was once filled in by religion, making the circle, let's say, a big red spot. Then, scientific explanations came along and erased a chunk of the redness here and another chunk there, until all that is left are a few blots of red here and there within the circle -- and, naturally, the red outline of it. The outline is the bit that can never be erased, because no matter how complete an explanation science is able to offer, there is always that one preceding question of why do we exist in circumstances where the effective scientific explanation, whatever it is, is able to operate. Suppose we agree with Stephen Hawking, that the law of gravity makes it possible for our Universe to expand itself into existence; why, then does such a law of gravity exist at all? Is it simply a brute fact, or is it the mechanism of a Creator at work?

And so, to the pandeist, the role of God is not 'shrinking' if the gaps being filled by science were not the original gaps at all, but later erroneous religious constructs. The pandeistic model supposes that all that originally existed was that thin red outline; people later came along with myth and superstition and filled the whole thing in red, bit by bit, imagining an intervening deity as the answer to every question occurring within that circle. And then science came along and simply erased those errors, never coming close to erasing the boundary itself.

And, indeed, to the pandeist, the scientist is engaged in the most worthwhile endeavour, for he uncovers the mechanism by which our Creator has set forth our Universe, and so discerns more precisely the size and shape of that boundary line, that last level of explanation which may never be resolved simply by scientific investigation. And so science, in erasing the ancient gaps, points us reverently towards the Mind of our Creator and provides us with the best tools for comprehending the purpose and destiny of a pandeistic Universe.

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