Who is alive?

TERRY: Lately you have spent most of our time prompting me; I thought I was supposed to be asking you the questions?
GOD: You can’t just ask us any old question and expect meaningful answers.
TERRY: Are you really unable to give reliable and true answers?
GOD: This is really your problem. Remember that in your spiritual understanding you are the equivalent of a frog trying to get a PhD (although evolution might eventually enable this). Again we have cautioned you not to expect True/False answers, we know what is “real”, but this lies beyond your understanding. Recall the saying “A person does not see reality as it is; rather they see reality as they are.”
TERRY: We agreed that I am making these interviews up, confident that you will correct me if you think I am straying too far from the path to truth; but how do I proceed if I don’t know what to ask?
GOD: Just stick to what you know and understand, for the time being.
TERRY: Do you mean physics?
GOD: Yes. Explain why you agree that the human view of the world is so illusory.
TERRY: Well most of my earliest, and best, research involved: atoms, electrons, photons (bits of light), molecules and symmetric arrays of ions. I have been teaching and pondering their quantum behaviour for the last fifty years.
GOD: Good, start with the physics you think you know.
TERRY: I said last time, that when we feel a solid object, we are really feeling invisible force fields because the solid part of the object is about a million millionth of the volume of the object itself. Knowledgeable people might object that atoms are bigger than my estimate because of the orbiting electrons; the problem is that these electrons have no size at all, and to even describe them as orbiting requires some fanciful imagination. While the scientific understanding of the 1920’s; i.e. atomic models using marbles, wires and valence theory; remains very primitive, the applications based on these models are very potent and powerful. However they are quite illusory as far as physics is concerned.
GOD: You should also clarify your use of the term illusion.
TERRY: I use the word in the psychological sense: normal misperception of some object or situation (Macquarie Dictionary 1985). I reserve the word delusion for harmful or deliberate misperceptions.
GOD: Yes you humans are so proud of your knowledge and understanding; you don’t like to be reminded that your view of the universe is largely illusory. It makes you feel naively foolish, which of course you are.
TERRY: The properties of electrons have fascinated me since I was told in an undergraduate lecture that each electron seems to occupy the whole universe. My physics hero, Richard Feynman, gave a wonderful account of their quantum properties in the opening of his third volume of The Feynman Lectures on Physics.
GOD: Keep it simple, you know enough to realise that space and time are interlinked, most of your readers will either not understand you or not believe you if try to explain any further.
TERRY: Electrons respond to electric and magnetic fields according to the laws we know and understand; however they also behave as though they are influenced by fields that we cannot detect, let alone understand. They show evidence of a transcendent existence which scientists more simply describe as a parallel universe.
GOD: True, that is one of science’s current illusions.
TERRY: Light was thought to be electromagnetic waves, but then Einstein upset this understanding by establishing that light travelled as particles, or photons. Photons have many features that distinguish them from electrons, but they have just as many curious properties. It is their transcendent experience that enables them to appear as waves. Photons interact with electrons on a particle to particle basis, yet neither particle has a volume. However they must have an area to “bang” into things. If they bang into things they must have a mass. They do have a mass, light falls under the influence of gravity; this is one of the spectacular proofs of relativity.
GOD: True enough, photons are another illusory particle.
TERRY: They may be illusory, but they are the only things that we can see! Along with electrons photons are fundamental to all our scientific observations of reality; thus we rely heavily on phantom particles. As scientists we cannot say with any certainty what causes transcendent or metaphysical behaviour so we can only speculate about ultimate reality. It is disappointing that so many people, who haven’t taken the trouble to investigate science in any depth, are happy to claim that there is no metaphysical existence and all religious speculation is futile.
Instead they put their religious faith in technologies and mistakenly trust that scientific endeavour will continue to give us all a safe and easy passage to death. “Science explains all and science conquers all”, is the dangerous illusion of secular humanism.
GOD: Humans have returned to their arrogance found at the tower of Babel. They think that they have found their own path to enlightenment and paradise.
TERRY: Hey did that really happen?
GOD: It is a valuable story, learn from it; and don’t try to bury it in history.
TERRY: Let me put something plainly. When I first found out that some people believe that life occurred from sheer chance combinations of atoms, I simply couldn’t accept this. It has always seemed to me to be presumptuous to assume that something as vital and familiar to us as life just came from nowhere. Did it all just happened by chance?
GOD: Now introduce Charles.
TERRY: Oh, you mean Charles Birch, whom I had the pleasure of meeting on a number of occasions. He was a prominent geneticist and Professor of Biology at Sydney University, he is also considered to be an outstanding theologian. In order to explain the emergence of life and rational thinking on Earth (at least), Birch follows Whitehead and uses the concept of Pan-experientialism (sorry about the name, but any speculative study is littered with confusing names). Pan-experientialism suggests that: there is experience and feeling in all levels of matter in our universe.
GOD: Now give the quote you found in Birch’s book, Feelings.
TERRY: “…the legalistic-mechanistic universe, with its elementary constituents of ‘vacuous actualities’ was established as the orthodoxy of science. … It is called legalistic in its view of nature because of the influence of the voluntarist theologians, Scotus, Ockham and the protestant reformers, especially Calvin. The term voluntarism refers to a God who wills certain events to happen”.
GOD: Just let Charles use the big words, why are you attracted to these ideas?
TERRY: Well, I like the idea that I am surrounded by life, it is like living in a large family with you as our parent. I was never happy being stuck with an arbitrary legalistic code, interpreted and dictated by jealous minded people.
We have freewill but we should always be responsible to life around us. As the Garden of Eden story explains: we chose and now we are responsible.
GOD: While you are using your bible, why not add the passage, from our servant Paul that encourages your Pan-experientialism.
TERRY: OK, I will use Stern’s Jewish bible.
Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8:
19 The creation waits eagerly for the sons of God to be revealed; 20 for the creation [became frustrated] unwillingly because of the one who [caused] it. But it was left hoping 21 that it would also become free from its bondage and decay and enjoy the freedom that goes with the glory that God’s children will have. For we know that the whole of creation groans as with childbirth; ...
Even here I have had to take small liberties with the translation, as modern English is contaminated by legalistic-mechanistic thinking and struggles to meaningfully express the vision of people like Paul, who lived two thousand years ago.

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