Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

If you or I were to proclaim that a man with whom we had a personal relationship had created the Universe and everything in it, we would risk being sent into a mental institution. And, while in that house of protection if we continued with such proclamations, we might be considered so lacking in good sense, by responsible people, that we would be considered a danger to ourselves and others, and be given a private room, locked from the outside of course.

Yesterday, Pope Benedict proclaimed, “that we should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident,” that is, by natural processes, and instead believe that it came into being by being created by some conscious entity with which he and his church has had a special contact. He is also reported to have said, “The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe.” This man has no evidence for either of these statements, and since he proclaims these things about something of which he has no verifiable experience, it should be taken as suspect and one shouldn’t make any decisions based upon these ideas.

People will be led into a life of suffering if they base their life decisions upon information which has no relationship with the real world within which they live. To live life successfully requires paying attention to what is happening in the immediate environment and responding to it appropriately. Basing your behavior on statements by a person clearly outside of a clear relationship with your personal reality and even well outside of any testable universal reality can only lead to problems and even personal catastrophe.

The Pope complains that scientific theories can’t give absolute answers to questions, “they only arrive at a certain point … and do not manage to explain the ultimate sense of reality.” That is a marginally correct statement, but not the way he means it. Science approximates reality and puts boundaries around ideas which can be tested. But the Pope claims he has a precise answer, an ultimate answer, and his answer is infallible. He claims to know about the moment of creation, and that it was intentional, that it had an ultimate purpose.

The scientists’ claims are more modest and typically limit what they say to the evidence of their verifiable and falsifiable experiments. These indicate that the universe is about 13.9 billion years old, and they can perform other experiments which give considerable clarity about the first several seconds after the original creation event. With these clearly stated they can make some assumptions about what happened before but there isn’t any evidence, whatsoever, of some guy which the Pope can talk to in the privacy of his personal chapel existing at that time. In fact there is no way for a conscious person, such as the Pope claimed to have been talking to, to have existed for billions of years after the Big Bang.

All of the evidence for human-like conscious thoughts, which are required to conceive of a Godlike being, have resided within human societies. Most people would agree that the Pope is a human being, even after he was elected to his high office, and has human potentials essentially like other people’s. All evidence of archeology points to the simple fact that humans with consciousness have been around for about 100,000 years at the most. There is no reason to assume that a conscious being from beyond the Big Bang would pop back into some person’s mind at some particular place in this vast universe of time and space. That happening is implausible in the extreme. The type of faith-based reasoning the Pope is using for these proclamations has no basis in verifiable or disprovable fact.

It is unfortunate that his huge and supposedly sophisticated organization hasn’t learned to couch their pronouncements in a form that doesn’t violate good sense. It would be possible, in this modern world, to state the ideas about universals which are plausible and therefore more profound and therefore more applicable to people’s lives, but for the Pope to say God is responsible for the Big Bang just makes him into a throwback to an earlier time when things were not understood as well as they are now. Furthermore, our understanding of reality is improving and the church should take advantage of our better understanding, and as it develops provide us with well stated methods for improving our lives.

I feel real affection for the current Pope but I wish he would be better grounded in proclamations which are defensible.

Base your thoughts and behavior on testable reality.