I know the difference between model and reality. I don't care whether you call God Yahweh or Allah or whether you tell me the circumference of a circle is 2piradius or tau*radius. The language changes, but the concepts are the same.
My father once told me of the time he was in school and the teacher brought in a black box. It had all sorts of levers and wheels and things sticking out of it. Pushing or pulling on one thing would cause a reaction somewhere else. The assignment was to figure out what the internal mechanism of the box looked like. Every student came up with a different answer. Every answer worked. My father understood that theories are useful as long as they describe our results and help us make decisions, but that no one can ever really know the truth for sure. They never found out what was in the box.
I think in the same way. Reality is ultimately unknowable and so our models must be tentative. I am always learning. I love hearing new ideas that challenge my old thinking, but I don’t immediately throw out my old ideas for new ones that can just as easily be challenged by still newer ones. I don’t need to have it all figured out to believe in something. The physicists who first discovered that atoms are made of positive nuclei with detachable electrons didn’t know anything about antimatter or the wave nature of electrons. They still to this day don’t know whether they are better thought of as point particles or as loops of vibrating string. This does not stop them from believing electrons exist.
Our ideas about cosmology have also changed a lot in the past five hundred years. Our ideas about how large the stars are, how far apart they are, how fast they move, whether they move at all, what they are made of, and the nature of the invisible stuff in between them have all changed – sometimes more than once. This does not stop people from believing that stars exist.
In the same way, I don’t have to understand just how God operates to know that “something” is there. I expect to be surprised as I learn new things about the universe. Is God really a trinity? Is he really a male? Is he really omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent? How does he experience time? Does Hell really exist? Do angels really exist? How exactly does a painful world and a loving, omnipotent God coexist? I am open to all possibilities.
For now, having a benevolent intelligence guiding my life is as good a model as any, ready to be refined as new data pours in. Evidence of disasters in the world is no more problematic for my theory than the “vacuum catastrophe” is for quantum mechanics, or the “ultraviolet catastrophe” was for classical mechanics – they still teach the laws of Newton and Maxwell in school because they are precise enough for most applications and using quantum mechanics for everything is unwieldly. That I sometimes act and speak as if I am on my own without any divine help should be no more surprising than it is that scientists switch back and forth between the contradictory models of quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, and general relativity based on the phenomenon under study.
Which models give you hope?
I have decided to start a new You Tube Channel to go with my FloraAndFaunaOfTheUniverse blog. I will be posting doodles, excerpts from upcoming exobiology books, and worldbuilding advice. The WayOutDan YouTube channel will no longer cover these subjects, but will be for religion, philosophy, travel, exploration, and life's journey.
Do you ever remember something differently than someone else? How does that happen? I once wrote a blog post about this that is slightly too long to repost here. Read it at the link and tell me your thoughts.
Some years ago I developed a mathematical argument for optimism:
Starting with the present moment and assuming endless future time, one can plot a measure of "total good." This total good takes into account our attitudes and how we react to things and is thus dependent on memory of past good and bad. For example, after a long period of bad, even a tiny moment of good can have more total good than an extended period of good greater by any normal measure.
This total good will go up and down apparently randomly. Given an infinite amount of time, eventually, by chance, there will be a spike of good greater than all previous good. Everything that came before this spike will be part of the story of causality of how this good was achieved. Since it is a measure of total good, it will mean that no matter what happened before, it was all worth it.
Of course, the same argument can be used to prove that things are getting worse. Eventually, statistics predicts a dip deeper than any before it. ...