Faith strikes home when the single desire to believe exceeds the thousand good reasons for not do so. My brother, Zach, found Jesus in mid-life, converted to Catholicism, and after some years of intense biblical study he completed his journey to becoming a wholly superior, self-indulgent, moralizing twit. But I love him none the less.
I’d mentioned to him that I found no basis or evidence for his god or any flavor of god existing, to which he patronizingly replied, “Natural science and theology are not competing bodies of knowledge; rather they are distinct and complementary forms of inquiry.” He’d obviously been spoon-fed the intellectual gruel the Catholic Church passes off as T-bone steak. I asked him how much Jesus had charged him for his frontal lobotomy and it went downhill from there.
“Distinct and complementary forms of inquiry” is a variation of the renowned paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, Stephen J. Gould’s claim that religion and science are “non-overlapping magisteria,” that is, philosophically, non-overlapping domains of study, inquiry, and influence. Of course this is a non-starter, a failed proposition right out of the box, as is Zach’s restatement of this proposition. The simplest two reasons (among many) is that religion continually makes forays into the natural world with outrageous claims which infringe directly upon science, and does so with arguments which trespass upon the integrity of our natural world, and about as subtly as nine-hundred overweight flamenco dancers kicking their hearts out on top of a condemned building.
THE QUANTUM PROBABILITY PRAYER PROBLEM: Contrary to what Stephen Gould claimed about religion and science being “non-overlapping magisteria,” not only does prayer trespass upon science’s “magisteria,” but it does so with an unapologetic chutzpah and arrogance. Every prayer uttered in desire, pain, suffering, or love, is done so with the religiously fostered expectation that a god will intervene in this world on one’s behalf to alter in one’s favor the natural order and progression of probability-laden possibilities into improbable alternate realities, or impossibilities, as the case may be. More simply stated, god will suspend the physical laws of nature, physics, and quantum mechanics to give to us what we ask. Exploring how such nonsense came to be believed is entirely another issue.
Exploring further what would happen if even a single prayer was ever actually “answered,” consider: if a god answers our prayers, as all religionists claim, then such a god nudges our moment to moment reality to and fro for our benefit and alters the laws of physics and quantum probabilities in our dimensions to do so. Even one answered prayer requires — absolutely requires — that reality must also be altered for everyone else in the world on some level, now and into the future. God will change our entire future history, and therefore, the future history of the world — and consequently everyone in it — to grant our wishes if we pray well. If this is not the case or the object of the exercise, why pray? It begs the question, if prayer is not clearly the most massively narcissistic enterprise one can engage in, what is?
Answered prayer declares that every time our personal flavor of god sticks its toe into our dimensions to stir the waters or alter the flow of happenstance, time, circumstance, and serendipity, our worldly reality is forever altered and splintered, thereby contravening macro and quantum probabilities. Answered prayer is the ultimate fruition of chaos theory, the theological “butterfly effect,” the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in China eventually altering the entire weather system of North America, and consequently the world, but in prayer’s case, without any rational support for this occurring and leaving absolutely no falsifiable or objectively rational evidence that it has ever occurred.
Answered prayer is, therefore, an overt and wholly unsupportable faith-based scientific claim that quantum probabilities no longer apply or relate to the physical realities of our lives or the physical properties of our world or the universe, while, in the same breath, claiming to alter our physical reality from its course, forever. The scientific claim religion clearly makes is: A god may alter the laws of physics in one’s favor, capriciously and willy-nilly as it chooses, and alter the cumulative future histories on some level of everyone else in the world now and in the future in the bargain, thereby uncoupling the quantum mechanical and classical probabilities from everyone’s world and experience, while leaving absolutely no falsifiable evidence of reality-tampering in its wake.
The result is that answered prayer throws the world into a quantum washing machine where all quantum and macro probabilities are scrubbed clean from current and future reality, and then haphazardly tumbled. And what is the best “probability cleanser” to use? A god, of course, need you ask? We hear of criminals and the Vatican bank laundering money; religion makes numerous and outrageous claims that god launders the predictive probabilities from our lives and world at large. From any moral accountability or ethical perspective, god is by far the greatest criminal laundering enterprise.