This has been a topic that has been on our minds for quite some time. We feel that the societal, scientific...
The pressing need of the age is a system of religion that can recognize, at the same time, the truths of demonstrated science and the doctrines found in the pages of sacred writ, and can show that perfect harmony exists between the works and words of the Creator; a religion that will reach both the head and the heart–that is, will both the intellect and the conscience… Nothing short of this can satisfy the demands of this age of independent investigation and research, when men are not satisfied to take, unquestioned, the opinions of uninspired, self-constituted ministers or priests.
Millennial Star December 1, 1898 – “Science and Religion”
I believe that for any world view to fully engage with our humanity it needs to resonate with both our mind and heart. This is seen across many different world views:
science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Albert Einstein from “Science and Religion” in The Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion © Jewish Theological Seminary, 1941
Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.
see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength…
Zeal is the engine that drives the whole vehicle: without it we would get nowhere. But without clutch, throttle, brakes, and steering wheel, our mighty engine becomes an instrument of destruction, and the more powerful the motor, the more disastrous the inevitable crack-up if the proper knowledge is lacking.
Hugh Nibley “Zeal Without Knowledge”
… emotional interpretations of [anomalous events] grant them significance regardless of their causal account. And if we are to take seriously the scientific credo to keep an open mind and remain agnostic when the evidence is indecisive or the riddle unsolved, we should not shut the doors of perception when they may be opened to us to marvel in the mysterious.
Michael Shermer from “Anomalous Events That Can Shake One’s Skepticism to the Core” in Scientific American
What’s in common across these quotes from a Jew, Hindu, Mormons, and Atheist is seeing the need for both the mind and heart to be engaged in their respective world views. That the many dimensions of truth operate in these different epistemological fields. This has been a life lesson which I have learned as I have leaned too far on either mind or heart.
From a young age I’ve been interested in science. This has been an asset for me as I’ve earned a degree in Computer Science and since developed a career as a software and data engineer and architect. However, mind can only engage in part of our humanity. And without engaging in matters of the heart, that critical psychological and spiritual muscle can atrophy. We engineers are notorious at this. It is in the vital matters of human and/or divine relationships that this atrophy becomes a liability. As I’ve explored the gospel, mind only allowed me to travel in limited dimensions. It wasn’t until I also explored the gospel with the heart that my faith began to really flourish. The mind gives us logic, dogma, creeds, and beliefs. The heart gives us love, service, relationships, and covenants. Balancing these becomes the work of discipleship.
So, here are two reasons why I believe in God and Christ.
Why I believe: Mind
The first argument is logical and fairly agnostic to any particular religion — though Mormonism’s strong emphasis on humanity becoming God and God once being human aligns particularly strong with it. It lays out a rational reason to trust that a god exists. It is a simplified version of The New God Argument, and so may not be as robust as the full argument.
- I trust that life can manage not to destroy itself by virtue of compassionate moods as it develops dangerous technologies that enables it to become superintelligent/powerful. In other words: our destructive powers seem to always outstrip our defensive powers, yet we’ve managed not to destroy ourselves (see my “Heart” section below).
- I see a continuous pattern of the desire to create, explore, connect with others, or simulate worlds, universes, and spaces by intelligent life similar to its own (see Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument).
- The universe(s) seem to have been around far longer than would be necessary for a prior species to attain #2 (see cosmology and Kardashev Scales — esp. class IV or V).
- Therefore, I trust that it’s quite probable that our existence has been affected and/or created (however you want to define that–terraformed, bioformed, cosmoformed, simulated, etc.) by other super-intelligent beings far more compassionate and powerful than us.
People often cite Clarke’s 3rd law:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I like to add a corollary:
Any sufficiently compassionate society with this technology is indistinguishable from benevolent gods.
If a super-intelligent society lacked a corresponding level of “super-compassion” they’d likely destroy (a) themselves or (b) us. It’s also possible they might just (c) ignore us.
Carl Sagan explored this in his book “Contact” when Ellie has a conversaion with a super-intelligent society and asks them about malevolent super-intelligent beings:
Ellie: If the Nazis had taken over the world, our world, and then developed interstellar spaceflight, wouldn’t you have stepped in?
The Alien: You’d be surprised how rarely something like that happens. In the long run, the aggressive civilizations destroy themselves, almost always. It’s their nature. They cant help it. In such a case, our job would be to leave them alone. To make sure that no one bothers them. To let them work out their destiny.
I think it’s likely super-intelligence could be driven by a desire like Arthur C. Clarke’s statement in Odyssey 3001:
… [since] in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars
If Mind is ultimately more important than things, this desire to seek out and preserve the genuine, emergence of a diversity of other Minds and cultivate them towards super-intelligence could become a kind of prime directive.
Interestingly a prominent leader of the recent New Atheist movement, Richard Dawkins, from his book, “The God Delusion” essentially makes this same argument:
Whether we ever get to know them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine … As Arthur C Clarke put it, in his Third Law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ … The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods … In what sense, then, would the most advanced SETI aliens not be gods? In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? … They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution …
And in Dawkin’s book “River out of Eden” he takes an Epicurean way out (option (c) above):
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither care nor know.’ DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.
Interestingly, Mormonism can go along with modern skeptics right up until skeptics make this kind of nihilistic assumption that gods either don’t exist or would ignore us, destroy us, or hide from us guided by their selfishness or indifference. Mormonism has faith in the opposite: that an emergent God(s) exists (even evolutionarily emergent) and instead has a filial, benevolent, and revelatory attitude towards us guided by selflessness — optimizing efforts so that “the rest could have a privilege to advance like [themselves]” (Joseph Smith — King Follett Sermon) — in as much as we, in turn, reach back in trust and love. And since the assumptions we make in what would motivate post-human advanced beings will likely play a key role in what gods we might “turn into” in our emergent, evolutionary future, Mormonism seems to have much more functional power for emergent evolutionary outcomes than does Epicurean or nihilistic assumptions or world-views.
That’s one of my rational, probabilistic arguments to trust in a creative, benevolent god or gods.
Why I Believe: Heart
The second argument is based very much in Christianity and the fundamental message of Christ. It focuses on matters of the heart and finds truth through intersubjective epistemological modes that focus on relationships between people rather than ideas or relationships between things. This argument addresses a more practical, day-to-day, “Why?” question. At the core is the idea that what God is offering us is a relationship between our intelligence, others around us, and His/Her/Their intelligence. I think that when it comes to relationships between beings with free-will, reductive, logical, engineered, or mathematical models fall apart. I can’t derive the value, meaning, and reality of the relationship I have with my wife through scientific, mathematical, or engineering methods. Whatever that might look like may reveal some interesting insights, but ultimately I’d be using a square peg to fit into a round hole.
The way I understand Christian, Mormon (and many other world religions’ scriptures) is that what God is trying to establish with us is the truthfulness of the value and meaning of the reality of this relationship. And while there might be some interesting overlaps between that reality and science, I don’t think it’s ultimately reducible to it.
I believe this is what Christ was getting after in John 7:17 when He was asked about how He gained His knowledge:
17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Later in John 8:31-32, Christ speaks to those that believed on Him about a key to discipleship:
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
And the apostle John also taught this in 1 John 2:3-5:
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
In a way, Christ is saying here that we can’t just objectively and dispassionately deduce the truthfulness of His teachings and commandments. Christ seems to be saying (requiring?) that we must insert ourselves into the gospel equation and become an active participant. Then we can gain knowledge and testimony of the validity of His doctrine. That knowledge is not derived only from logic, but by experience and personal witness.
63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
The gospel isn’t derivable by logic alone and Christ never set it up to be. Instead, His gospel is found in the lives and actions of His followers. It’s found in discipleship. We simply live the gospel in our lives and that becomes more of a witness than any amount of logical proof could.
I believe that the reason for this is because a belief in Christ isn’t merely some intellectual ascent; it is a human relationship with the divine. And just as we cannot derive meaning from our cherished human relationships by logic, we cannot derive God by the same means. Instead, just as we do with meaningful relationships with other people, we progress with God together in a constant exchange of faith, trust, and confirmation. The gospel isn’t about spectatorship it is about discipleship. This is what the above scriptures are talking about: A real relationship with God derived from faith in action, which is the solid foundation to explore then with our mind rather than the other way around.
The “truth” being offered here isn’t a truth that is derived through logic/reason (though it isn’t anti-logic or anti-reason either). The truth offered is atoning relationship through Christ. So, when we approach “truth” in a gospel context, we need to make sure we’re trying to use the right peg. And when I see and approach God as a relationship, it works and I can feel the reality of that relationship grow.
These are by no means exhaustive arguments. And they certainly do not compel one to believe them. Nor are they the only arguments for mind or heart. But as I’ve given proper balance to independent witnesses which allow both my mind and heart to flourish, the gospel has taken deeper root in these dimensions of my life — each supporting the other. And if our faith is going to flourish in the diversities of our humanity, we need to find arguments that resonate with both our minds and hearts.