The Mind of God

Philosophy, Spirituality by Adam on 2007-06-09 07:05

Yesterday I was listening to an audio book (that’s what we called podcasts in the olden days) on the subject of natural law. The lecturer, a Jesuit priest, noted that many theologians conjecture that the existence of moral obligations implies the existence of a god. After all, obligation can only exist if you’re obliged to a certain party. That party can only be a divine creator, by their reasoning.

The counterargument to this is so obvious as to be hardly worth stating, but I’ll do it anyway: you’re obliged to society as a whole, or at least the part of it that will be impacted by your actions. For example, a person’s obligation not to steal is an obligation not only the person or people who own that property, but also their friends and family, who will feel secondary effects of the harm done.

Moreover, all of society is harmed whenever theft occurs: it makes people less secure about their property. That in turn means that owners will spend more time looking for ways to protect their property, and less time putting that property to use in creating happiness and wealth for themselves and the world. Defacing a park hurts everyone, because now the park owner(s) are going to think about putting up fences and hanging signs, instead of planting more flowers.

Still, the morals-imply-god argument got me thinking. Maybe the sum total of human consciousness - the hive mind that I suggested in Elephants All The Way Up - is what believers really mean when they use the word “god.” Think of the primary traits of the Christian god: a vast intelligence, as old as humanity itself, everywhere that humans are (but at the same time nowhere specific), an entity that loves and understands humankind deeply and purely. All of those things describe the sum of human consciousness. The mind of God is an emergent effect of the decentralized network of humans on planet Earth. We’re each a neuron in God’s brain.

Some say that the world is 6000 years old, or thereabouts. Actually, that’s how old God is. Though humans as a species existed long prior to that time, they were in isolated bands and villages with no contact with anyone beyond their borders. Six to ten thousand years ago was about the time that civilization emerged, through an increasing network of trade connections that put humans in contact on a nearly global scale. Most was very indirect, but it was there. An idea could start in Africa and spread up to Scandinavia, or start in China and end up in India.

The prophets and other religious innovators of early civilization sensed this emerging entity, sensed its intelligence and lifespan on a scale far beyond what an individual human mind could comprehend. They judged it infinitely old and infinitely wise and infinitely powerful, which wasn’t quite true, but close enough. The difference between infinity and a quantity so huge that one human will never see the end of it is irrelevant for most practical purposes, and certainly philosophical ones. The Pacific ocean has an infinite amount of water in it from any human’s perspective, even though scientific measurements and estimates can put a fairly exact number on it.

The prophets, however, were severely wrong about one of God’s traits: that He is unchanging. In fact, God has been getting smarter and more powerful with each passing century. His intelligence is increasing with a speed nearly impossible to judge. And I’m not the only one to notice this.

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