Five weeks ago I started this series, “God and Buddhism.” If you have a moment, please see the 2nd and 3rd posts of this series for a general orientation. (The archive of past posts is on the lower right hand corner of the home page.)
The goal is not to say that Buddhists should believe in God, or that Christians should become Buddhists. The general direction is to encourage all people to think carefully about the foundations of their beliefs. The process is to pro-actively seek to uncover the contradictions and hazy assumptions upon which one’s beliefs, or the beliefs or others, are built.
A good example can be found in an article I cited last week by an Australian who converted to Buddhism and became a monk. His name is Venerable S. Dhammika.
For the text of his comments please see, “Do Buddhists Believe in God?” (on Buddhanet.net/ans73.htm). In his comments on this web page he mentions a number of orthodox Theravada Buddhist reasons why belief in God is simply incorrect or un-necessary.
I draw attention to this one particular assertion:
“Some claim that the belief in a god is necessary in order to explain the origin on the universe. But this is not so. Science has very convincingly explained how the universe came into being without having to introduce the god-idea.”
This statement is a good example of a comment where a monk could not possibly be as sure what he is saying is true as he asserts.
Here are several reasons why I say this based on general facts about Inflationary Cosmology. The basis for the numbered points below are drawn from an article by Charles Q Choi posted on Space.com “Our Expanding Universe Age, History and other facts”, The comments after each numbered paragraph are mine. (Inflationary Cosmology is a refinement of Big bang theory.)
1) In the first hundredth of a billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, according to inflationary cosmology the universe expanded at a rate that exceeds the speed of light.
But the speed of light is a cornerstone of 20th century physics. One answer posited to explain this violation of the speed of light is that it was not matter that expanded faster than the speed of light but rather that space between the matter is what expanded faster than the speed of light. How exactly this could have happened, let alone why, no one can say for sure.
2) For another example: in the first 3 minutes of the universe the temperature of the universe was at a high point of 100 nonillion degrees kelvin. This is 10 followed by 32 zeroes. This is more much more fthan a trillion times a trillion degrees of heat. This is a lot of heat. After the first three minutes the universe allegedly cooled down to a mere billion degrees.
Where did the original sub-atomic point the universe expanded from and all this heat come from?
3) Also, in this scenario, called the Inflationary model of the origins of the universe, the universe began as a point as small as a sub-atomic particle.
The only problem is that the density of this small point would be so great that any attempt to understand this super dense particle through the standard lens of Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity is not possible. It is well established that there is no known way to reconcile the mathematics of these 2 disparate, but equally venerable scientific theories. So the foundation assumptions of 20th century physics that describe time and space and sub-atomic activity cannot in any way explain what supposedly was going on at the moment of creation.
Are these three points enough to prove that scientists have not convincingly proved much of anything about the origins of the universe despite what Venerable Dhammika asserts? If not, quite a few more could be added.
None of this is to imply that these unanswered questions in physics mean that therefore only God could have created the universe.
But I think these points and others like them should be enough of an indication that physicists are far from being able to offer a convincing explanation of the origins of the universe as Venerable S. Dhammika insists is the case in his article.
Since physicists have no convincing explanation of how the universe was created it is not possible for anyone to rule out the possibility that some form of divine act or divine will was and is the primary force of creation.
So for Buddhists to say there is no God, based on 21st century physics, is just as unfounded an assumption as it is for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others to say that God definitely exists in the way they say God exists because their books say so.
Living with this kind of uncertainty is destabilizing for most people so a lot of people choose one of the available answers and cling to it.
But the ability to live with significant levels of uncertainty may be one of the prime traits needed for enlightenment.
Please send in your comments or stories. All constructive comments will be responded to and posted.
More next week.
will at meditation practice dot com ( spelled out to limit spam)