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Author Topic: Is God alive  (Read 6149 times)

another_someone

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Is God alive
« on: 04/05/2007 23:20:29 »
I am an atheist, so this really is not so much a question of absolutes but rather a question of belief asked of those who do believe God exists.

If you belief God exists, do you belief him/her/it to be alive, to be a living organism.

There are many ways one can define life.  A common definition is that life has the following attributes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life
Quote
  • Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, sweating to reduce temperature.
  • Organization: Being composed of one or more cells, which are the basic units of life.
  • Metabolism: Consumption of energy by converting nonliving material into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
  • Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of synthesis than catalysis. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter. The particular species begins to multiply and expand as the evolution continues to flourish.
  • Adaptation: The ability to change over a period of time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism's heredity as well as the composition of metabolized substances, and external factors present.
  • Response to stimuli: A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism when touched to complex reactions involving all the senses of higher animals. A response is often expressed by motion, for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun or an animal chasing its prey.
  • Reproduction: The ability to produce new organisms. Reproduction can be the division of one cell to form two new cells. Usually the term is applied to the production of a new individual (either asexually, from a single parent organism, or sexually, from at least two differing parent organisms), although strictly speaking it also describes the production of new cells in the process of growth.

There are problems with the above definition, and I personally am not totally happy with it, and I certainly will entertain any other definition of life you are willing to use, so long as you clearly state the definition of life you are using when you decide to answer whether God is alive or not.


 

Offline chimera

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Is God alive
« Reply #1 on: 05/05/2007 02:31:05 »
I think there is only one 'organism' or 'unit' or 'body' that could represent God - the Universe itself. Guess that pegs me as a pantheist or something, but nothing smaller would suffice, given the concept of Him as all-encompassing.

It would just mean our concepts of creation and deity are a bit mix-ed up, and there is essentially no division. We are a part of the Universe, after all.

Whether the Universe as a whole is alive, sentient, maybe even conscious, or now deceased (Nietzsche) , would be the next question, I think.

'Life' is only a *part* of this system, though. It does not necessarily translate to the whole maybe - it could also fall very short. Same goes for the other possibly parochial epithets.

But if we extrapolate that life on our planet is such a 'system' we even call it Gaia as if it were a person, even though we know it's only a system, but it's almost as if the system itself is alive.

Think that's because that's where it gradually 'pours' out of, from energy to dead matter to biological organisms. There is no real sharp border between death and life, in a lot of cases. So where the system with living things stops being 'dead' is very hard to tell.

Also check the 'intelligent design' vs Darwinism controversy: in how far is the system intelligent. Basically same question. It is, and it isn't. And maybe the whole question of teleology is moot, since design and systemic inevitability lead to the exact same result.
 

another_someone

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Is God alive
« Reply #2 on: 05/05/2007 14:18:03 »
I think there is only one 'organism' or 'unit' or 'body' that could represent God - the Universe itself. Guess that pegs me as a pantheist or something, but nothing smaller would suffice, given the concept of Him as all-encompassing.


But this fact alone, that there is and only can be one, implies that reproduction is impossible, and so that which you regard as God cannot be alive.

'Life' is only a *part* of this system


This would further imply that you think that living organisms are a concept that is separate from God, although you infer that life is part of something that is not alive (which is not wholly unreasonable of itself - although there is a general prejudice that sentience is an exclusive preserve of the living, which if true would imply that God is not sentient, or alternatively one would have to say that the non-living can also be sentient).
 

Offline chimera

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Is God alive
« Reply #3 on: 05/05/2007 15:33:23 »
I think there is only one 'organism' or 'unit' or 'body' that could represent God - the Universe itself. Guess that pegs me as a pantheist or something, but nothing smaller would suffice, given the concept of Him as all-encompassing.


But this fact alone, that there is and only can be one, implies that reproduction is impossible, and so that which you regard as God cannot be alive.

'Life' is only a *part* of this system


This would further imply that you think that living organisms are a concept that is separate from God, although you infer that life is part of something that is not alive (which is not wholly unreasonable of itself - although there is a general prejudice that sentience is an exclusive preserve of the living, which if true would imply that God is not sentient, or alternatively one would have to say that the non-living can also be sentient).

Well, reproduction could be a new universe, so would be outside the scope of our senses. Maybe check Lee Smolin's idea on baby universes via black holes - I don't think he's right, but there's apparently many ways to slice this.

I don't think that living organisms are a concept that's separate from God, by necessity. I tried to clumsily explain that life and death are two extremes on a scale, and the exact transients are muddy. The totality would be something 'bigger' than life in itself, since it would *produce* it, and when that happens, can we still speak about a 'lifeless' system - see my remarks about Gaia.

Same goes for sentience in a way - Darwinism is blind, yet works 'as if' nature takes 'smart' decisions. The big problem in AI is definining consciousness, intelligence and all those monikers in an objective way - and we find we are hard put to even get close to something that works in all cases and is an objective measure. Noone agrees on anything, there. Systems can appear more intelligent than individuals - all depends on what you think 'intelligent' is. Some say you can only judge that in retrospect, meaning that 'making the correct choice' and 'success' are an integral part - and we already know Darwinism is not necessarily intelligent either - oops.
 

another_someone

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Is God alive
« Reply #4 on: 05/05/2007 18:24:17 »
Well, reproduction could be a new universe, so would be outside the scope of our senses. Maybe check Lee Smolin's idea on baby universes via black holes - I don't think he's right, but there's apparently many ways to slice this.

If by this, you are suggesting that there is one God per universe, and multiple universes, then this is a very different scenario to your earlier suggestion that there was only one God.

Ofcourse, the inference here is that we may only, in any specific sense, be aware of one God, but the inference must still be that we are in a general sense aware of the existence of more than one God.

I don't think that living organisms are a concept that's separate from God, by necessity. I tried to clumsily explain that life and death are two extremes on a scale, and the exact transients are muddy. The totality would be something 'bigger' than life in itself, since it would *produce* it, and when that happens, can we still speak about a 'lifeless' system - see my remarks about Gaia.

The word 'lifeless' has many meanings (we can talk about a motor car or a computer being lifeless, in the sense that we refer to it as being non-functional; but that is not to say that we regard computers and motor cars as living organisms in the sense of the word defined above).

I don't think we can regard all complex systems to be alive - after all, we have computer systems that are probably more complex than simple bacteria, yet we regard the bacteria as living but do not regard the computer to be a living organism (although we may crudely use the nomenclature of life to refer to a system that comes to life, or wakes up, or goes to sleep, or dies - but none of this makes it a living organism in the sense defined above).

Certainly Gaia cannot reproduce, and it is debateable if it has a metabolism (it rather depends if you regard Gaia as the entire planet, including all its resources,which cannot  be regarded to metabolise that which it already contains; or if you regard Gaia as only being the living entities on the surface of the planet, which clearly does metabolise the non-living resources available on the surface of the planet).

Same goes for sentience in a way - Darwinism is blind, yet works 'as if' nature takes 'smart' decisions. The big problem in AI is definining consciousness, intelligence and all those monikers in an objective way - and we find we are hard put to even get close to something that works in all cases and is an objective measure. Noone agrees on anything, there. Systems can appear more intelligent than individuals - all depends on what you think 'intelligent' is. Some say you can only judge that in retrospect, meaning that 'making the correct choice' and 'success' are an integral part - and we already know Darwinism is not necessarily intelligent either - oops.

Sentience is not merely about making 'intelligent' decisions, it is about self awareness; although I agree that does not make it an easy thing to define.

One thing that must inevitably be the case is that to be aware of 'self', one must be aware of 'other', which I suppose again precludes something for which there is no 'other'.  But nonetheless, I do agree that sentience is separate from the definition of life, and neither demands or precludes the other.
 

Offline chimera

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Is God alive
« Reply #5 on: 05/05/2007 20:04:52 »
(1) If by this, you are suggesting that there is one God per universe, and multiple universes, then this is a very different scenario to your earlier suggestion that there was only one God.

(2) Ofcourse, the inference here is that we may only, in any specific sense, be aware of one God, but the inference must still be that we are in a general sense aware of the existence of more than one God.

(3) Sentience is not merely about making 'intelligent' decisions, it is about self awareness; although I agree that does not make it an easy thing to define.

(4)One thing that must inevitably be the case is that to be aware of 'self', one must be aware of 'other', which I suppose again precludes something for which there is no 'other'. 

(5) But nonetheless, I do agree that sentience is separate from the definition of life, and neither demands or precludes the other.

(1) Well, the ability to procreate wasn't really necessarily part of my definition of life, but on your list - so I just handed a possible scenario. Dunno if it's a necessity, or even something that's actually relevant, see [2]

(2) Think that's straight from the Bible, not worshiping other gods. Sortof does not rule out their existence, same as with 'spirits' in the witch of Endor story - it's there allright, but thou shalt not mess with it. Anyone's guess.

(3) I think awareness is pretty primeval - all animals and children can do that. Consciousness in my view is the 'serial' form of that, in time. A row of nows, of which we have memories, and is something that only gradually is achieved. We're the only animals with our *specific* sense of 'time', if other animals HAVE it at all... think we're pretty unique there.

(4)That ofcourse does not exclude the scenario that God has a bad case of MPS, in the form of us.

Would sortof solve the 'me' vs the 'other' problem in one fell swoop. :)

(5)I don't really know. It could well be that any *particle* already in a sense is 'aware' of the difference between itself and its environment, and the rest is just added layers of complexity.

Anyway, thank you for this excellent discussion so far, it really helps putting my thoughts on this a bit in order... :)

(edit:)
Oh great, all my bracketed markers are invisible... long live forum formatting. Will change them to something else :P


« Last Edit: 05/05/2007 20:07:40 by chimera »
 

another_someone

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Is God alive
« Reply #6 on: 05/05/2007 21:26:32 »
(1) Well, the ability to procreate wasn't really necessarily part of my definition of life, but on your list - so I just handed a possible scenario. Dunno if it's a necessity, or even something that's actually relevant, see [2]

I deliberately took what is currently regarded as the predominant working definition of life.

I don't totally agree with the defintion myself, but I did not want to try and use my definition of life; but even my defintion of life would have included procreation as a primary prerequisite because without procreation you cannot have evolution, which is now regarded as intimately intertwined with life.

I did say that I was willing to entertain any other definition of life, if you were more comfortable with a different definition, so long as you could clearly enumerate your definition, and show how it would support what we understand of life.

(2) Think that's straight from the Bible, not worshiping other gods. Sortof does not rule out their existence, same as with 'spirits' in the witch of Endor story - it's there allright, but thou shalt not mess with it. Anyone's guess.

The Old Testament is the Bible of the Jews, and the Jewish view of God was that Yahweh was the God of the Jews, and although no Jew should worship any God but Yahweh, they were not about to share their God with the rest of humanity.  It was natural to the Jews that the Egyptions should worship their Gods, the Babylonians theirs, etc; but for a Jew to worship any but Yahweh would be treasonable.

It was only with the comming of Christianity that the God of the Jews became translated to the God of humanity, and no other God but that would be tolerated, even by other peoples; and only after that do we see the intolerance for foreign Gods.
 

Offline chimera

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Is God alive
« Reply #7 on: 05/05/2007 23:37:14 »
Ah, I see another of my brackets got zapped at the end of the first quote, it should have read: ' see {2}, this looks a bit silly, sorry.

Anyway, procreation is a matter of debate, since life must have started *somewhere*, and dead, at that. How do dead things 'procreate'? We can make viruses, but they are not really 'alive' yet, but a step. They DO have the ability already to 'procreate', be it via a host. Yet they are not alive.

This could give us a subtle hint that we don't really know what we're talking about, and are grasping at straws. Any bold statements as to what's what could turn out to be rash words in only a few years, if they get lucky, and kickstart a simple cell - although that could take considerably longer than optimists might think - those things are as complex as cities.

As to Christians starting monotheism/monolatry, not the Jews (or Zoroastrians maybe before them), dunno - Christians have Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which is not exactly monoanything, when you think of it. Jews have only one God, the rest is clearly 2nd rate or worse in the Jewish 'pantheon'.

Bit of a side issue, but most of the Judeo/Christian heritage (Day of Judgement, God being the Word, the Messiah, the Adversary and a long list of other items) are Zorastrian in nature, and the Jews took that with them from the Babylonian exile. Some of THOSE influences can be traced straight back to the Veda's.

So, the move towards a more monolatric theology was started way East, and is not really a Western thing, in my view. Worse, I think we even twisted it into something that's neither here or there.
 

Offline Titanscape

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Is God alive
« Reply #8 on: 21/05/2007 16:48:28 »
The Christian God gives life we believe. He is life.

He is Spirit, ie, being, and in nature, behaviour and character, light and love.

He exists above time and His presence fills the universe. Reaching beyond a cellular body and a body must exist in four dimensions. So only in time's linear progress.

We would suppose He had a body of sorts before the incarnation of Jesus.

It would respond to stimuli expressing love and understanding and teaching in the natural realm through a body, perhaps of cells.

With regards to homeostasis and adaption, He both governs the internal and external environment.

He seems to adapt but ultimately is said to know all future events, before they are at base concieved.

Adapting to evil is the ultimate challenge.

It is strange to think of Him growing, I'd say he doesn't grow. Hard to explain the idea of Him not shedding old skin and foot skin erosion. He may have grown a body long ago.

In Exodus the Israeli's sandals of leather did not wear out, and a tree branch buds as just a staff. I'd say the sandals grew new cells.

It may be like this with God's body, His feet themselves, but there is no death in Heaven or with God anywhere. Shed cells would die or something. Mystery.

His bones do not erode... He has no disease. His eyes do not dim.

He has sex cells, the NT says He applied one to Mary a virgin who bore His Son and equal Jesus Christ.

But as the Holy Trinity, three equal persons, they created new individuals, angels, which are after His likeness considerably but are servants in relation to Him, no exceptions. Some life forms reproduce by means to have unrelated offspring, but all of their own kind, even bacteria, plants and all animals.

A man making a robot does not reproduce. Yet angels would have spirit breathed into them from Himself.

They, the Trinity formed one man in their image and likeness and He was a son. His own kind and relationally attached to the Trinity called Elohim.

But the son was identical to the Creator.

With the Trinity His life pre-exists His body. We Christians believe in the life and spirit as existing apart from the body sometimes. And the creation of a soul as existing with or without the body.
« Last Edit: 21/05/2007 16:57:12 by Titanscape »
 

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