Often, when two people debate things like the existence of something like God or paranormal phenomena or telepathy, the course of arguments inevitably leads towards a stone wall. The non-believer asks the believer to prove the validity of his assumptions. The believer challenges the non-believer to prove that he is wrong. The non-believer points out that he can’t prove a negative. The believer laughs arrogantly, only to realise that he can’t prove his side of the argument either. The two parties end up with a sort of truce, each agreeing to allow the other to believe what he wants, while secretly shaking their knowledgeable heads at the other’s obvious lack of intelligence.
The fact that a negative can’t be proven is most famously demonstrated by philosopher Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot. Russell proposed that if one were to say that there is a teapot in orbit around the sun, between the earth and Mars, there would be no way to prove that person wrong. He is right. But one’s failure to prove their opponent wrong does not automatically imply that the opponent is right. It only shows that one can never be certain. And that goes for both believers and non-believers.
The strength of Russell’s argument roots from the useful habit of assuming that things do not exist until their existence is proven. But what if we were to go the other way? What if we propose that everything exists until the existence of it is explicitly disproven. Sound a bit over the top?
Of course, the reason we don’t do it is because it would overload our world view. We define our world by using both presence and absence, objects and gaps, light and darkness. When defining it, what the world lacks is as important as what it contains. To assume that everything exists would fill up the gaps so completely that the world will stop making sense altogether. It would be like painting a landscape by using every single colour on every single inch of it – the landscape will simply stop being a landscape and turn into something completely incomprehensible.
But the point remains. Our inability to make sense of reality does not negate the true nature of reality.
As it is, human beings’ view of reality is quite limited. Our ears can only sense sounds between 20 and 20,000 hertz. Anything beyond that limited slice of the audible world is practically non-existent to us. Our eyes can only see light reflected in colours of the visible VIBGYOR spectrum. Ultra-violets and infra-reds are all but invisible to us.
The neurons in a snail’s brain fire once every three seconds. This means that if a snail is looking at an apple and you take the apple away quickly (within 3 seconds), the snail will simply see the apple disappear before its eyes. The neurons in your brain fire off millions of times a second, but there is no reason to assume that there can’t be things moving faster than our ability to process their movement. Think spirits, think gods, think angels.
What I am trying to say is that the world we perceive and assume as being real may actually be a very slim slice of true reality.
So what is this “true reality” that I am talking about? What does it really look like? In my post on the universe as imagination, I proposed the idea of God as an enormous mind inside which everything exists as ideas. I am proposing now that what we commonly call reality, is composed of ideas that have found physical manifestation. Think about it. Everything that man has brought about, first existed as an idea. It was accessed through imagination, and then put into physical effect.
It follows then that the part of reality we do not see is mostly made up of ideas that have not found physical manifestation. Information that has not been accessed. Plans that have not been put into effect.
I am in the middle of a book called Morphic Resonance: The Nature of Formative Causation by biologist Rupert Sheldrake. The author makes a reasonably solid case for the presence of a sort of memory in nature. He suggests that the forms that organisms (both macro and micro) take in the course of their evolution are decided by plans that exist in nature as information. These plans are trans-temporal (beyond time and space) fields of information. They are like invisible empty vessels into which matter falls and takes shape – just like water takes the shape of the vessel it falls into.
Particularly interesting is one of the theories that Sheldrake provides regarding the origins of these fields:
One possible answer is that morphogenetic fields are eternal. They are simply given, and are not explicable in terms of anything else. Thus even before this planet appeared, there already existed in a latent state the morphogenetic fields of all the chemicals, crystals, animals and plants that have ever occurred on Earth, or that will ever come into being in the future.
In case you are interested, here’s a quick and dirty intro to Sheldrake’s theory. The idea of there being a plan to things starts to make sense when we look at the various self-regulating systems around us. In space, whenever a specific sort of gas cloud condenses, a star is born. Whenever a certain combination of atoms comes together, only a very specific type of molecule is born. Sperm cells of a certain type mixing with eggs of a certain type always give rise to a very specific sort of animal. These are not chance occurrences. There definitely seems to be a sort of plan at work here – information inherent in nature that dictates the steps necessary for a certain process to flower. Come to think of it, even the eternal laws of physics are simply information embedded in nature.
I think that the debate about whether something exists or not often suffers because our frames of reference are so narrow. What we need to do is to expand the definition of existence to include imagination. We need to start looking at reality as composed of both the subjective and objective. Only then will we begin getting somewhere with relation to questions regarding the existence of God.