The Watchmaker

My father’s death in 2009 brought about various questions in my mind around reality, God, existence, consciousness etc. I remain confused as usual on all these as I only have questions and there are no known answers yet. However, I do envy religious people – they have blind faith but then they are not as perturbed on these issues as I am. They have a book that gives them answers to these questions that they believe in or they worship an idol or they have a place they revere and that is their reality. Usually a God is involved who is omni-potent and omni-present. He is the creator…

Is there a creator? From a point of common sense, if there is no creator then who created the Universe we see around us? If for an instance I agree that the universe was made by a God, then I have to ask who created that God? Usually the answer is that God was always there, no one created that entity. God did not have a cause. Does this mean something can exist without a cause? If so, then why not stop at the Universe and if we do not stop at the Universe, then, why stop at God? Why not go further up? Seems like God as stated by scriptures is man-made.

In primitive societies man looked about and saw that all was too complicated to explain and so he invented a God that “explained it all”. That God had qualities of a human but was indestructible who had created everything. Looking at the universe as a precision machine, it is easy to imagine an all-knowing creator – an easy answer. We can think of an all powerful creator who created this complexity or how life came into being etc. and no further explanation is necessary. The idea of a creator God does not fair well in Buddhism as it does not withstand analysis. Most quantum physicists reject this idea as well – attributing the exceptional fine-tuning of the universe to chance.

The way our universe came into being ‘initial conditions’ and 15 physical constants. Some of these physical constants are:

  • Newtonian constant of gravitation – determines the strength of gravity’s attraction
  • Constants that control the power of strong and weak nuclear forces
  • Speed of light
  • Planck’s constant that fixes the size of atoms
  • There are constants describing the mass of elementary particles like neutrons and electrons

Now if the initial conditions were slightly altered, or if, any of the basic constants were slightly different, the universe as we know would not exist. We would not exist. In other words, the universe seems to be fine tuned…like a Rolex with almost no scope for error. How did this come to be? Is someone involved to bring this about? is there a watchmaker behind all of this that fine tunes this intricate machine we call universe?

Science is yet to evolved to a stage where it can say why these constants came into being at the values that sustain this universe. But we know that if any of these constants are altered to a very very minute degree, the universe will cease to exist. Taking an example of initial density of matter – this property of matter helps keeps the expansion of universe in check as matter created a gravitational pull that counteracts the expansion of the universe. Had the initial density of matter been greater, the universe would have collapsed at birth. The gravitational pull would have been far greater than the expansion causing it to collapse into itself. This density of matter in the universe had to be of a specific value within an accuracy of 10 to the power of minus 60. If one figure after 60 zeroes had been different, the universe would have come into existence. No life as we experience and perhaps no consciousness in that case. Now that is some fine tuning!!

Buddhism rejects the idea of someone behind the fine-tuning for it argues that the physical constants and consciousness have always existed in the universe. Time is not a dimension of its own – so there is no beginning and no end! It sees the Big Bang as an event within a process rather than a beginning. That process has no beginning and no end. It believes in stages of a universe and that there have been universes before and will be universes after because the process of causality dictates this setup. There has been no adjustment as the constants and consciousness have always existed together. Constants were not created in order to create consciousness.

Another argument Buddhism has against the idea of God as creator is that God is believed to be his own cause. No one created God. God is immutable, absolute. The reason – pretty simple! If God the creator has no cause but itself, then it cannot have a reason to be different or change. Any change would imply that there was another cause, an influence on God and that wasn’t the prime cause.

If God is immutable, he cannot create anything. Creation is a process and someone involved in that process cannot be deemed immutable. Before creation God was not a creator. He became a creator after creation so there was a change. God is not absolute. Most established religions talk about a beginning, however that takes a leap of faith. Buddhism believes that to be unnecessary so long as one doesn’t clutch to the idea of a beginning.

Quantum Mechanics attributes the beginning of time as an effect of the Big Bang. Time and space came simultaneously with the Big Bang. However, time did not exist before the Big Bang. So what does it mean – ‘and God created the universe’? This act makes sense only if universe is made in time. If time existed before the Big Bang, that would mean effect preceded cause. Now how logical is that?

In addition does that mean God exists within time? As per Albert Einstein time isn’t absolute. It varies from one place to another. It’s contracted at places and stretched at others. No one can tell you the exact time as it differs from person to person (even if the difference is nano seconds). Time is elastic and anything within time cannot be absolute and certainly not all powerful. God within time would be under the influence of the laws of time. A God outside of time will be unable to influence anything within time. If he transcends time, he already knows the end result, so why bother?

I think this as far as I will go for now. It won’t make a penny’s worth of difference what you or I think or believe or do not believe- it is what it is. Do what floats your boat but don’t infringe on others right to an opinion.

The difficulty for most of us in the modern world is that the old-fashioned idea of God has become incredible or implausible. When we look through our telescopes and microscopes, or when we just look at nature, we have a problem. Somehow the idea of God we get from the holy scriptures doesn’t seem to fit the world around us, just as you wouldn’t ascribe a composition by Stravinsky to Bach. The style of God venerated in the church, mosque, or synagogue seems completely different from the style of the natural universe. It’s hard to conceive of the author of one as the author of the other….Alan Watts

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