I have been thinking that I am asking for trouble on my expedition to find evidence. That is, what is a reasonable form of enquiry to find God? For instance, it is easy to dismiss a Santa Claus type of figure. I dismiss as morally repugnant a war-mongering god. I would say also that the theory of Intelligent Design is a religious statement and not a scientific one, because science is about finding causes, not covering them. How do I do this with an open mind? So, how would I conduct an experiment that is appropriate to find the Christian God?
You’re a genius, mate. Great question. First, to get oriented to the nature of the object of enquiry, some data from the Bible. That’s because we are often talking about different things when we say “God”. For this experiment, let’s start with a super-short literature search in the Bible to establish the kind of thing we are going to talk about and look for. You may need to pull out a Bible or an on-line reading bible.
Romans 1. 18-20 – talks about the presence of God in the world, only obscured by people not wanting to know. Is that so? What evidence would substantiate that claim?
John 1.1-18 – says that the Word of God, an intelligent principle called Logos by the ancient Greeks, is present and at work both in the beginning and operation of Creation and in the person of Jesus and the circumstances of his life. That means the Presence is personal not passive.
Psalm 139.1-18 – makes all this even more personal, to you and me. It says God can be known on our inside, knowing us thoroughly, so that everywhere and everyone is a sacred space. Worship and wonder can take place fully not just in dedicated sacred spaces.
So now, experimental method. What is the right tool for the job?
1. Why would a microscope NOT work? Even a really powerful one like an electron microscope?
Well obviously, God is non-material. It is an obvious but surprisingly overlooked starting point for the enquiry. God is spirit. What’s that? A Code for being not there at all? We need to find ways to break this down into smaller steps, so that the fifth dimension, as it were, can be recognised intelligently. It is unreasonable to insist that the only valid evidence must be material evidence from four dimensions. There is plenty of consequential evidence in those dimensions but that is not what they are insisting upon . To do so is simply not to do the experiment for something whose dimensions are non-material. So the fact that such a one would end up saying ‘not there, no evidence’ was a fact nested in their assumption and their method, and is not a conclusion from the evidence. It is not ‘evidence-based’ anything. So let’s get closer in on the question.
2. Is God more like a brick or more like light?
God is more like energy and not like the empirical sort of matter. However, God is still an entity. We know this form of existence is fairly normal, like a photon of light which can act as a packet of energy and which can also act as a wavelength of energy. In this case God of a non-electro-magnetic kind. Since 22% of the universe is dark energy, we know such a dimensionality is possible.
3. Is this investigation more like chemistry or like gravity?
God is beyond the immediate reach of material science, point made by now. So unlike chemistry in one sense, but like it in another. Reactions are theoretically predictable, but laboratory work does not quite go as simply as that. Lab technique is all important, and so it is with God – ‘what do you think you are doing?’ is a good question to ask of this experiment in extraordinary wonder. On the other hand, God inhabits a field of being with operations that can be sensed – so, a bit like gravity, a form of energy which can be traced by instruments, but whose energy waves have proved elusive so far. Again, God is like dark matter which is gravitational but not the same as the mass we know. Note that I am NOT saying that God is the explanation for all the things we do not yet know scientifically, like dark matter and dark energy. Some people do that, but they are mistaken in my view, and do not need to. I am saying that the logic of this kind is every bit as experimental as our major scientific categories.
Let’s move on to a question of dynamics.
4. This is getting harder. If God as we say is a complex personal being, are our experiments more like the dissection of a dog, or more like treating a dog that is alive in the veterinary waiting room? The latter.
Imagine a doctor heading towards you as a patient with a scalpel in hand and a gleam in her eye yet clearly showing to you that she doesn’t know what she is talking about. Are you going to just sit there? God recognises poor experimental technique and, as it were, crawls off the bench. Things like ‘what do you think you are doing’ and ‘who do you think I am?’. This experiment involves an appropriate and complex personal interaction, like a doctor or psychiatrist, even like a veterinarian, and is not a passive dissection by somewhat prejudiced techniques.
Imagine now a biologist who brings a class to a lovely looking swamp and says ‘we can never know all about its ecology so let’s just let the mystery be! Back on the bus, everyone’. Or would they simply get started? A Christian God is like a swamp, can never be fully known, a locus of multiple systems and purposes. So get started, learn to connect with the ecology of God.
Again, I am not saying ‘God is everything we see’, in other words, pantheism. I am saying there is a complex, encompassing, dimensional presence about God, which is knowledge of a kind which scientists are quite used to dealing with.
5. Let’s try another analogy. You have fallen in love, wow never before like this. Can’t bear to be apart. You wonder whether your terrific girlfriend or dreamboat boyfriend was the right one for you to give your life to, and so, hopelessly boringly tiresomely in love, you puppy, you asked your best friend’s advice. What would you think if they said: ‘Let’s go to the lab and measure your pheromones. That will tell us.’ Actually, even saying it like this is amusing. That’s because it is so obvious that an empirical response might describe a phenomenon but won’t tell us anything useful about the personal question. You would be assured if the friend’s response was to ask whether you two communicate deeply, mutually, non-dominating, responsive, wanting the best for the other, caring and open? That is getting more like the experiment in extraordinary wonder.
God, the Christian bible tells us repeatedly, is like love, big love, purposeful, inviting, non-dominant love.
OK that’s probably enough of analogies. There have been lots of analogies through the centuries, most of them eventually got pushed too far and broke down. And there have been lots of ‘experiments’ with the wrong instruments.
The Right Instrument
Isn’t the right instrument, ultimately, the heart of you? An open minded experiment with the appropriate instruments is as follows: A skeptical person could say: ‘if you are there and you want me, God, I won’t let any material pre-conceptions or egotistical demands stand in the way? Since you are God and not me, I will remain open to the time and way of your choosing.’ Then you wait, alert to assumptions and egotism that will invalidate the experiment, until God shows up or not. It is your best Self that is the right instrument, calibrated by those who have made this journey before you.
Catch 122, as if you needed to hear one more. Ego. All spiritualities, management theories, relationship counselling and books of wisdom provide this warning on the box. We so easily reduce the hard questions to our own needs. I will look out for God if… I can get a bike, a miracle, the world the way I want it, my own fears answered or… The fat relentless ego, as one sage called it, is also subtle, capable of unconscious seduction and the unconscientable. We need to at least to attempt to stand clear of that edge.
That is a method which recognises the most basic data on the dimensions, qualities, personality and status of the object of enquiry. It uses analogous methods from similar problems in science. I can’t think of another experiment that is appropriate to the actual object we are actually testing for.
It is not a trick. It is not a covert attempt to get you converted without you meaning to. That would be impossible. It is an experiment. You can simply ask Jesus to do all this at any time in any words of your own choosing. Apart from the naive assumption that everything is only material, that objects of enquiry must be passive, this is a scientific method. Try the proper experiment,and if you won’t, then no wonder you can’t find anything out.
And if what you do instead is argumentative dissection, use the invalid instruments of say chemistry and biology, the tools of material science being misapplied to another, use crappy lab technique, then don’t call yourself a reasonable scientist. If you push aside this valid experiment ,then it wasn’t Reason or science that made you do it, it wasn’t openness to enquiry that motivated your objections, and it wasn’t something someone else did to you. It was your own self-limiting methodology.
Think about it – what else in your life and science will dissolve under such a method? What other values and relationships will be crushed by this pretense of openness? What other options in science will be excluded if you are not willing to look in certain directions?
On the other hand, you could wonder. That would be no small thing. Like Love.