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Do we need God in the XXI century?

Stuart Kauffman

How wonderfully strange a title and talk by an 82- year – old Jewish atheist and geneticist. The answer is, profoundly, “Yes”. 

Copernicus cast us adrift from our Divinely ordained position at the center of the universe under the crystalline spheres of the moon, the sun, and stars. Far above these angels and God. Below our feet on the flat earth, small creatures, and the concentric levels of Hell. We in the West knew our place – the Center of God’s Creation.

“No!” said Copernicus, then came the mathematical laws of Kepler, Galileo and Newton. We have lived for 334 years in the mechanical universe of Newton and the Newtonian Paradigm:  Identify the relevant variables, often position and momentum. Define the mathematical laws in differential form among these variables, for example, Newton’s three laws of motion and Universal Gravitation. Define the “boundary conditions” that thereby specify all combinations of values of the variables – the phase space of the system. Specify the initial conditions. Then integrate the differential equations to obtain the entailed trajectory of the system in its phase space.  What comes to be is an entailed deduction.

“I have no need for God”, said Laplace.  No, he did not. God could work no miracles, became the God of the Gaps for many, and the Deistic God of David Hume and Adam Smith.

This is not altered by Quantum Mechanics, safely within the Newtonian paradigm.

God has slipped away in secular humanism and late Capitalism. We are in the Anthopocene, our $120 Trillion a year global economy growing at 3% a year is a juggernaut that lifts us from poverty, links us in trade, affords much of the meaning in our lives, yet drives climate change, a mass extinction, and wave after wave of pandemics as we invade habitats all over the globe.

We destroy the biosphere grown for 3.7 billion years as if we were Above Nature. We are not, we are Of Nature.

Unexpected salvation if we will have it: Newton’s paradigm and the mechanical world view entirely fail for our or any magically evolving biosphere. Living cells are Kantian Wholes where the Parts exist in the universe for and by means of the Whole. You exist by virtue of your heart and kidneys. They exit by virtue of you.  We are all the conditions of one another’s very existence. More, cells literally construct themselves. Life is based on but beyond physics. Life is a propagating construction, not an entailed deduction. Evolution is not only beyond entailing law, it is beyond any mathematics based on Set Theory.