Imagine you are God – at least as Paley and Dawkins have imagined God. There you are sitting on your sapphire throne, omnipotent, omniscient, perfect. There’s only one problem. If you’re perfect you can’t be free to be imperfect and it’s better to be perfect and free than just perfect. Dawkins is right, such a God cannot exist. What is the answer to this dilemma? There is only one possible answer. If there is a God, God has to be a human being because in the whole of creation only humans are free. Everything else is ineluctably ruled by instincts, algorithms and the laws of nature, even, if you believe in angels and archangels, they are unfree too as theology will tell you.
‘God is within the universe and that innermostly’ says Aquinas. What are we to make of this in the light of science? It is a basic law of the universe that lower elements fuse with each other to form higher unities. An atom is composed of protons, neutrons and electrons that work together to produce an atomic machine that transcends their separate functioning. I’m amazed that people often use ‘mechanistic’ to mean undesigned, purely material and unspiritual. A machine is just the opposite. It’s only because all the bits have been invested with, and organized into a coherent whole by, the inventor’s idea that there is a machine as opposed to a heap of bits. You can’t point to any place in the machine and say ‘that’s where the inventor’s idea is’ but it’s everywhere in the machine. It’s the same will all higher unities. You can dissolve water back into hydrogen and oxygen but you don’t then have two bits of water. You can’t chop up wateriness.
Here are two crucially important ideas drawn from Darwin. One is that we intelligent beings were not parachuted in from some celestial empyrean but sprang from the earth. We are, you could say, the earth become conscious, each of us is a kind of pocket summary of the whole of evolution. Dig down into a human being and you soon find instincts that we share with the higher apes. Lower down you’d find genes we share with lower forms of animal life, amphibians and molluscs and so on and lower down still genes we share with daffodils and cabbages. We share the chromosomal structures of all forms of life. Our bodies are made of cells and the cells of molecules that are made of atoms and the atoms composed of electrons, neutrons and protons that were all there were in the first fractional nanoseconds after the Big Bang. But electrons are waves as well as particles, everywhere as well as somewhere. I find it constantly amazing that in the depths of our bodies we are already existing in this everywhere life. I have come to believe that when we die we shall not ‘enter into eternal life’ but simply awake from ‘this our little sleep’ to find we were living it the whole time.
Here is Darwin’s second important idea. All life is a unity, indeed all matter is a unity. It’s not that subatomic elements are particles and waves. Somehow in ways we cannot understand a particle is a wave and a wave is a particle. Particles are exclusive of each other in that a particle cannot be in two places at the same time or two particles in the same place. But waves can. As in Young’s two-slit experiment and its many, many heirs waves can pass through both slits and fuse with each other to form single unities, yet at the same time because they are also particles they are also separate. Especially important to me is the two-slit experiment that was done on the biggest entities, so far as I know, on which scientists have as yet been able to do it, fullerene molecules. Fullerene molecules are composed of anything from sixty to five hundred atoms formed into hexagonal patterns a bit like a soccer ball, and, you might think, tiny, only a few fractions of a millimeter across. But in comparison with an electron they are huge. You might well think that an electron is on the border between something and nothing, but a fullerene molecule is without doubt a thing. The experiment worked on the fullerenes just as it had on the photons and electrons. Things too, including ourselves, can also take the form of waves. Particles exclude each other but waves do not. Our bodies are not nerves + muscles + bones + brains. A human being is a single even higher unity of all the higher unities that compose him or her. But on the level of the wave we, like everything else, are connected with everything else in the universe. Science is telling us, I believe, that on the level of waves the universe is a single unity. There is a higher unity of all higher unities. Just as electrons that are particles as well as waves are in the depths of our bodies, so in the depths of the whole universe there is a highest unity of all, that is also composed of particles.
There is no Paley God outside the universe. We and everything else are God in the highest of all unities in which, although at the moment we are unconscious of it, we are already existing. ‘God is within the universe and that innermostly’; ‘God does not exist, God is existence’. God is the universe in its deepest place, identical with it and yet transcending it, as an atom transcends the particles that compose it.
But is this higher unity of all higher unities also a person? And what of our freedom? How does this fit into the highest of all unities?