The Science Channel’s program, Through the Wormhole, hosted by Morgan Freeman, has a noble goal: help educate non-scientists with cutting-edge ideas. The series opens with an episode on God: “Is There a Creator?” Interestingly, in our society there are those who turn the question around. Religious folks ask the question: does science really have the answers? It is the classic ouroboros, the snake swallowing its own tail. Perhaps the best way to consider this entrenched issue is to consider its history. Gods emerged as explanatory figures. In the days when the Bible was the oldest known book, it was believable that God had dictated it and therefore the idea of God required no explanation: the ultimate tautology. When extra-biblical material predating the Bible was discovered, a warning bell rang. Most established religions in the western world simply pretended not to hear.

Snake, dragon, whatever.

Neuroscientist Michael Persinger of Laurentian University features in this Wormhole episode, demonstrating his “God helmet.” The principle is that stimulating the specific part of the right hemisphere of the brain that corresponds to the left hemisphere’s region of “selfhood,” a brain will fabricate a presence. While the experiment has promising results, it can’t fully explain God. Other neuroscientists are working on the issue as well. Historically we know that Yahweh was one among a polytheistic entourage of deities. With the stresses and mysteries of exilic existence, monotheism was born. Only one of those many gods survived. By studying the character of Yahweh’s departed compatriots, however, we can learn of the origins of gods as well.

Science entered the picture much later. By the time of truly empirical observation, God was an assumption as certain as ether. When science offered an alternative explanation, religion countered. “I see your Big Bang and raise you one Prime Mover.” And thus it will always go. With no witnesses, alas, no intelligence even yet evolved, our universe began. We can ask the physicist or we can ask the priest. Even if God is discovered and described in the laboratory, with or without a helmet, those standing outside will always believe, with Anselm, that there is an even bigger one somewhere out there.

4 thoughts on “Ouroboros

  1. Henk

    Damn I hate walking in as the resident skeptic. But boring as I am told I am, I am.
    a) I haven’t seen the documentary.
    b) I much prefer seing an action passage of someone quoting ezekiel out of context…even if it was or wasn’t the same actor.

    From what you have said, the first quantitative experiment for what the soft sciences say has been carried out. Psychlogy, psychiatry and even neuroscience have maintained presence (especially manic depressives) in authority reliance.

    So how does this relate to god? For me it doesnt. It still relates to the old black box signalling concept. We are all capable of reliance (we do it manifestly when we are young). The manic depressives actually see some remnant at times and it is frightening for them (until they live long enough to realise, its a trick their brain plays on them).

    Next may be a misread of your post ———————–
    The god helmet ( i presume this is just RTMS) is a poor explanation of this. Richard Dawkins subjected himself to this (as reported in Beyond Belief) and many other science/philosophy correspondents have too. Not that I am a fan of Dawkins’ phlosophical treatises I am a fan of his down to earth hard line skepticism.

    Back to reality and my impart…

    maybe not as I see things in only black and white..

    If god is only part of reliance then why is the mish mash of ecumenism so popular? Reliance is not the concept of, just be nice, its the attribution of authority.

    We are (all of us) opportunists and essentially strive to better things for ourselves or our demands. This is why the level of criminal demand is about the same as the demand for pure excellence. For me, I can only see one thing amongst us humans; what ever we are good at, we do it the best we can.

    Most of the time it does mean adopting common thought. If we relied on insane ideals and operations, none of us would get very far. In that I think we are an evolutionary by product. In that, the quantitative data that is now only generated for us normals and for us weirdos is only just the start.

    At every analysis of a start, many many new starts arise.

    Every documentary has more implications than the population of its viewing audience.


  2. KarlH

    The Big Bang theory was developed by a priest BECAUSE of his belief in a prime mover—naturalists/atheists were skeptical of it for some time because they were pretty tied to the concept of pre-existing material and an eternal universe. So much for atheists being the better skeptics prima facie…


  3. The very Arrogant...Henk van der Gaast

    Actually, I fear it was the observations of a priest following and confirming a prediction earlier on.

    I rag atheists as much as anyone else, so you are allowed to as well. The idea that you have to believe in any thing is “conspiratorial”.

    In the posters argument, he has a problem with the word atheist, belief and evidence.

    Its ok by me, I have to listen to believers polemic every night (my car radio is broken and I get one station, a right wing nut case). I am sure I would find the wishy washy nature of any polemic irritating.

    Its many times I have to turn Christopher Hitchens youtubes oratories off for his scientific idolatory rather than fact.

    The fact that you become an athiest is an anathema to me. The fact that you’d even advertise it is outrageous. Religious folk do that.

    I am too tight to get a new car or install a new antennae. In the mean time I have gotten used to the fact that weather = climate and Jesus = god and atheists arent allowed to have holidays.

    Somewhere, somehow, I think christianity missed honesty or purity. But what do you expect for an Italian religion?


    • Steve Wiggins

      Great response, Henk! I think it would be worth it to trade the car in on a bicycle — you might be able to afford a new radio then and spare yourself the torture!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.