Are you at all curious about atheism? This is the post for those questions.
Do you really believe that everything came into being by mere chance? Or that everything ends for us after we die?
Insofar as “everything coming into being by chance”, that is a bit of a difficult answer to give. By “everything coming into being”, I must first seek a bit of clarification from you, just to make sure we start off on the same page in plain terms and remain that way. If during the course of our discussion you feel that we are diverging in our understanding, please say so, and we will re-orient to re-assert mutual understanding.
May I ask you what you mean by “everything coming into being”?
Sure, let’s have a healthy discussion.
I apologise in advance for it being long. I mean a lot of things when I say the phrase ‘everything coming into being’, maybe I’ll quote the information when required during the discussion.
As of now, I’d wish to bring about the notion of ‘life’. Even the greatest of scientists have pondered over it for centuries. Are you aware of how every single trait of yours was predetermined and written at the time of your birth? Genes carry all the information regarding you and they are stored in the chromosomes inside every single cell of yours. Even when we are just a few cells big in the mother’s womb, the height you’ll have when you get old or the color of your hair is predetermined in your genes. And they are small, really small. They are roughly equal to a cube with a side of 30 nanometers. Erwin Schrödinger mentioned,
But let me draw attention at
this point to the fact that 300 A is only about 100 or 150 atomic distances in a liquid or in a solid,
so that a gene contains certainly not more than about a million or a few million atoms. That number is much too small (from the point of
view) to entail an orderly and lawful behavior according to statistical physics -and that means according to physics. It is too small, even if all these atoms played the same role, as they do in a gas or in a drop of liquid. And the gene is most certainly not just a homogeneous drop of liquid.
It is probably a large protein molecule, in which every atom, every radical, every heterocyclic
ring plays an individual role, more or less different from that played by any of the other similar atoms, radicals, or rings.
It is a practically impossible feat to accomplish. As he mentioned, leaving apart the genes, a million molecules of an ordered and homogeneous material such as water will fail to show the properties of water properly. And in case of genes we have it to the point where every single molecule is doing a particular job and changing only a couple of them will alter the organism or induce a mutation. For all of our cells to have the exact identical copy of those genes and for such a small entity to dictate every single trait about you, don’t you think it is just too beautifully perfect to be termed as a mere chance? A random fluctuation in space time?
I am sorry for the awful punctuation and ordering, I was using my mobile phone and it was difficult typing and reformatting the text.
Pardon me for intruding, I just really like these topics and would like to add some of my input. Hope none of you mind . Not all of your traits are determined by your genes before birth, biology these days is largely focused around genetics since that’s the field of science that (for the most part) brought answers to key questions we’ve had for a long time (a proper medium of heritability and the border between non-life and life), but heritability goes beyond your genes. Plenty of things change through the course of your life and these changes can also be passed on to your ancestors. It’s much more complex than being born with a set of predetermined traits which define your being.
I think people underestimate the impact that such a drastic period of tinkering over time can have. Gradualism builds up to extraordinary degrees (just look at mountains and canyons shaped by erosion), and we’re talking billions of years here. Not all changes are small anyways, drastic ones happen too (evolution isn’t constrained to gradualism).
Also, a lot of our genetic material doesn’t really encode for anything. Mutations happen all the time and can go unnoticed, either because they don’t end up leading to any significant change or they’re fixed by your proofreading system. Randomness and error is an integral part of what makes us what we are, it’s basically the centerpoint of this whole system. It’s also far from perfect, issues of health (mental, physical, what have you) show as much.
The universe obviously shows some fascinating properties, what with the laws of entropy and also the prevalence of a universal language (mathematics), but it’s hardly proof for the existence of a God. The necessity of some creator really only stems from our understanding of how we work, but these questions far exceed us. This all isn’t some kind of dice roll that happened and poof, life rose from the darkness. The properties of life have had copious amounts of time to manifest, and it’s all been shaped towards a certain direction. Earth had ample conditions to foster life, and life has been morphed under the tutelage of selection (not absolute randomness).
Personally, I don’t know how people can fully believe in anything. There’s so much of the universe that’s woven in mystery that the thought of firmly believing anything is just alien to me. I’m not atheist, I find it hard to say that there absolutely is no God because it can quite possibly be true (although perhaps not in the way which us humans conceptualize God). As I’m sure some of you would expect, you can’t just throw the compartments of life together (nucleic acids, proteins, etc.) and wait for life to grow. Nothing happens, there’s some underlying interaction or force that’s occurring between all these molecules. DNA doesn’t really replicate, it doesn’t really do anything, other things replicate it. The question of how morphology comes to arise isn’t really something that genetics has a convincing answer for, from my experience at least. I know I’m maybe getting too deep into genetics, especially since this argument goes beyond that, but I don’t think I can fit all my thoughts into one (readable) wall of text .
I agree with you on all this. I, personally don’t adhere to any specific religious beliefs. It’s just that I find it hard to imagine that there is no driving force behind all this, the birth of universe, the origin of life and stuff.
Regarding the gene thing, what I wanted to emphasize upon was not how everything is predetermined from birth but the fact that the basic code for an individual stores data in a size so small that it is impossible for physics to understand. It’s amazing how a precise order can exist at that scale when even a million molecules from a homogeneous material like water fail to show the properties of water at that proportion. It’s just fascinating how complex and accurate these things are. That is what boggles me. You can read ‘what is life’ by Erwin Schrödinger if you find these ideas interesting. He has tried to understand life from the point of view of a physicist.
>As I’m sure some of you would expect, you can’t just throw the compartments of life together (nucleic acids, proteins, etc.) and wait for life to grow. Nothing happens, there’s some underlying interaction or force that’s occurring between all these molecules.
That idea resonates with me. Some people say that teleportation might be possible through quantum entanglement. It could be accomplished if we reproduce the entirety of the quantum states the body is comprised of to another location. But then, I and some others believe that won’t work. Even if you create an exact copy of every single thing in the human body down the the smallest quantum state and elementary particle, I believe that it still won’t have life. Life is something that we can’t understand yet using the existing languages of physics and biology.
Quantum mechanics has proven how the things around us change just by the act of observation. I can quote examples for that if you are interested in. It’d not be too far fetched to say that things come into being by the mere act of observation(you can read about the collapsing of the wavefunction if you want to).
I am an amateur in these fields, especially in biology so I apologise if I made a wrong claim somewhere. I hope you get the overall idea I’m trying to convey.
I believe that there is a driving force, something outside our sciences. I believe that there is a greater meaning in all this.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist or belong to any other religion, life will go on. The only thing that changes is how you look at the things around you and react to the situations you face. I believe that appreciating the role of a greater force that makes everything possible gives a sense of hope and positivity. That is a personal opinion though.
I personally also refrain from making the text too large so chances are that some of the things will lose the meaning or atleast will not be as accurate as I wanted them to be. Hope you get the idea I’m trying to convey. If there’s anything you are unsure about, feel free to ask. Looking forward to a great discussion. (:
@skimrish Quantum mechanics is definitely an awesome subject. Things like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle blew my mind when I learned about them. It’s amazing the degree of disorder that underlies the overwhelming order on the surface. The fact that certain behaviour shifts when under observation is weird too. I wish I could learn more about quantum mechanics, but unfortunately, it’s the price you pay for heading down the biology stream . In my spare time I’d definitely like to look into it more because physics is just awesome. On a side note, Einstein’s theory of relativity is just too cool. The whole muon mountain experiment is one of my favourite physics lessons ever. Check that out if you haven’t already!
I haven’t read What Is Life by Schrodinger, but my evolutionary biology professor constantly referred to his ideas as faulty (likely because he’s looking from the outside-in in regards to biology). That book definitely aided the rush of physicists leading into biology post-WW2 era though, so it’s an important part of history. That’s about all I know about it, I haven’t read it and it’s something I should read because I would love to see what Schrodinger thought. It’s always best to form your own opinions anyways. Unfortunately my professor never fully explained why he thought this, probably because he was trying to get through the course and that would require a lecture in itself, but it’s definitely something I need to ask!
It’s staggering the degree to which we’ve morphed this entire planet, all stemming from the little heap of flesh we call our brains. The presence of something beyond the molecular basis of life may be delving into territory beyond experimentation. I don’t know if we will ever have the answers to these questions, and that honestly scares me. Even in the most epic of fantasies, I could never imagine a scale as enormous as that of a black hole, I just can’t wrap my head around it. It’s ludicrous, entire planets are swallowed, we are practically nothing in comparison.
The same of course applies for me in regards to wrong claims. I’ve studied my fair share of biology, but I’m definitely no PhD and far from the knowledge of my professors. Don’t even get me started on my physics amateurity .
@silent-radiance You can try reading Schrödingers book. It is hardly 30 pages long and you can find its ebook easily on the first page of a Google search. By the way, if you love science I recommend you to read ‘The tao of Physics’. It gives some insight about the nature of fields and fundamental particles in laymen terms. It’s a great read and establishes the link between spirituality, religion and modern sciences.
By the way, my area or research involves electronics and solid state physics so I am a bit better off at quantum mechanics in that regards. I am aware of the concepts of time dilation and length contraction. I like reading about blackholes and other cosmological bodies as well, it is a humbling experience.
Coming back to the topic, the more you delve into the depths of any of the fundamental sciences the more likely you are to believe in something otherworldly. Quoting from Heisenberg “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you!”
@skimrish I’ll definitely add both of those to my reading list . Thanks for the suggestions. I’d love to hear about your research, too. It sounds interesting!
I really like that quote, it’s something I’ve experienced too. When I first got into science, I deviated into atheism, but I can’t deny that there is a mysterious force behind all things. I’m currently agnostic.
I would honestly like a discussion on the topic of morality. If we can assume that morals have existed before organized religions, how did they first come to be? At what point did morals out way instinct?
I’d just really love to hear everyone’s thoughts about this. A good friend of mine and I were discussing this and I’d love to get more input from different people.
That’s an interesting topic. I’ll post a reply after I do some reading regarding the evolution of morality in humans. I’ve never had a discussion on this before.
@skimrish @rainhelpstheflowersgrow @silent-radiance
Please pardon my absence, I have been chasing a new job.
I noted several of your points in short in the interest of brevity, please pardon my paraphrasing.
•Predetermination in genes.
Actually this is predisposition towards certain traits, not pre-programmed traits altogether. There is subtle nuance there, and the concept of predetermination in genetics is a fundamental misunderstanding of the topic. The more a trait is passed on and becomes dominant, the greater become the chances for that trait to be outwardly displayed in the organism.
•Genetic Items are small, yet complicated.
The mere fact of complication does not discount the fact that there do exist tiny organic “machines” which serve specific functions in the order and function of life.
Not literally impossible, just difficult to grasp due to complexity.
•Too beautifully perfect to be chance.
Life is not ordered from the top-down (Order placed upon chaos), it is emergent from the bottom-up (chaos resulting in order). All of biodiversity is governed by chance.
There are no guarantees in nature. Even life that adequately adapts to its environment can still be wiped out by another factor altogether which had nothing to do with that life-form itself. The five great extinction periods in our planet’s history illustrate this.
Insofar as the idea that the universe is perfect: there are vast and myriad examples of failures and flubs in nature. Genetic defects, harmful diseases, and sundry conditions that are harmful to life do not demonstrate perfection in nature, they rather exemplify how nature can go horribly awry.
These are hallmarks of intelligent design; a variety of arguments that state the “apparent design” of the world and the universe at large MUST point to an original designer. This argument has been thoroughly rebutted, rebuffed, and refuted by the brightest minds in science and philosophy a thousand times over.
The types of mutations that occur in genetics are random, but it is not randomosity that governs existence, it is chance that increases the potential for survival. Nothing is a given, and nothing is guaranteed.
I very much appreciated your input on heritability and faults in genetics and the simple explanation of evolution, especially the analogue to erosion.
Insofar as how anyone can claim to know anything, that is the bleeding edge of the current anti-science movement, and that argument owes its existence to both solipsism and the recently-emerged religious apologetic of presuppositionalism which posits that since nothing can be known perfectly by imperfect beings, that we don’t really know anything at all, and therefore only one entity could know everything, and that is a god, which would be perfect by definition. It is really a nefarious act of begging the question, and it confounds many thinkers who are unfamiliar with the tactic.
You say that you’re not an atheist, but atheism is not the declaration that no gods exist (though many atheists do indeed hold that position, myself included), it is the state of being without a theism, or not being convinced that a god exists. If you do not believe in a god, or if you don’t feel like you know enough to make a confidence claim in the existence of such a thing, then you’re an atheist.
The term “atheist” carries a lot of stigma, and I follow in the footsteps of prominent atheists like David Silverman (President of American Atheists)when I take it upon myself to confront that stigma head on.