Many people like myself have come to Deism through their life circumstances and because having investigated all other religious and faith systems have come to the conclusion, quite rightly, that God is to be found more through Reason and Science than by believing in something without evidence, (a.k.a Faith). However , besides life experiences I have found that there are two other reasons that usually cause people to wonder if there is a God and these are as follows:-
(a) The order that is in Nature
This is interesting because there has been a debate in physics that at the subatomic level in matter there appears to be no order as to how the electrons in the atom behave. This apparent randomness has given rise to Chaos Theory. However I was reading the latest scientific evidence the other day and there is now an understanding amongst scientists that the randomness is just apparent and that patterns are present but they are just too complex for anyone to understand at the moment. Scientists are working on mathematical proof of this at the moment and hope to have a breakthrough in the next few years.
Also there is a saying amongst scientists that if anyone says they understand subatomic, (quantum), physics the clearly don't!
(b) The existence of Consciousness
This is what this paper aims to cover and it is a very interesting given that top scientists and thinkers including neurologists and philosophers cannot even come to a consensus, in the academic sense, of what consciousness actually is! Therefore for the sake of this article I will use the dictionary definition which is:-
Noun: (1) The state of being awake and aware of one's surroundings.
(2) Having an awareness of one's environment and one's own existence, sensations, and thoughts.
For the purpose of this article I will use the second definition as I do not want to write a paper on wakefulness. Even with the second definition through I am left with a problem since I mainly want to talk about people and there is quite a lot of evidence that the higher animals have an awareness of their own existence and themselves as having a separate sense of self. I would even say that higher animals have thoughts and so, in a way, can think. Therefore I have a problem with the second definition so I will add to it that the highest Consciousness also includes the ability to Reason. This, I believe, is only available to human beings. And it is the ability to Reason that leads to one of the primary responsibilities of being conscious and that is the ability to make moral choices.
It was because of becoming conscious of good and evil and therefore creatures able to make moral choices that Adam and Eve were expelled from the mythical garden of Eden. The original "sin" in the eyes of the Abrahamic God Jehovah was to become conscious. Contrast this to the Deist understanding of God, that Reason or Consciousness is something to be encouraged and developed. We consider that our Reasonable Consciousness is a God given gift not something to be punished for!
When I was growing up I was taught the theory of Evolution and it all made sense to me apart from the creation of life from inorganic matter to organic matter. In other words it always puzzled me why chemicals in the primordial "soup" suddenly developed "life." How did organic matter that was alive suddenly spring from inorganic matter that was not alive? And probably just as puzzling why?
These questions were the first things that I didn't understand about Evolution and no evolutionary biologist I have ever met or read has been able to explain them to me either. And then more amazingly not only did living things evolve from non-living things but also consciousness arose from non-consciousness in the form of animals. And then taken to its highest form life evolved human beings who developed Consciousness at its highest level on this planet, (in our present state of knowledge), whereby we became conscious of our own selves and our own, eventual, mortality. Consciousness developed in human beings to the extent that we even wanted to explore our own consciousness and find out what it was etc!
It seemed to me that there must be something more to Evolution than only Natural Selection as the materialist scientists insist. For example, material scientists explain that through Natural Selection living creatures learn to adapt, the strongest survive and go on to reproduce. It is in the impulse of all living things, (despairing humans aside), to want to continue to live - to survive - and this is the first instinct of any living thing. The second instinct, (again notwithstanding a human invention - contraception), is for living things to want to reproduce. The Theory of Evolution Natural Selection explains the mechanism by which the two aforesaid impulses are expressed and pushed forward. What is does not explain is why those impulses are there in the first place.
Why didn't the first living things just have no impulse to reproduce and just let themselves die out after their life was over? Who, or what, initially compelled them to go forward and multiply, to adapt and survive and then thrive?
As Thomas Paine noted in The Age of Reason, "Every science has for its basis a system of principles as fixed and unalterable as those by which the universe is regulated and governed. Man cannot make principles, he can only discover them."
Evolutionary biologists may be able to explain evolution by means of Natural Selection which they have discovered but they cannot explain why the very impulses which drive Natural Selection are there in the first place. When I put this question recently at a convention to an eminent British evolutionary biologist who pushes Atheism very strongly about why these impulses exist in the first place he could only answer "It just is so!"
My answer would be that there exists a First Cause which is the Spirit that caused all the impulses and Laws in Nature to come into existence in the first place. And I would call that First Cause God.
I would hold that God is in the form of Spirit and that he willed the material Universe into existence when the Big Bang happened. With that Time and Space began and all the Laws of Nature were put in place. Both those that we know about now and those that are yet to be discovered. Through Science we can find out what really exists, and we can rearrange the elements of that which exists into new arrangements but we ourselves can Create nothing new. We can only rearrange that which already exists. That which was created by God. We can do that because we have Consciousness and that I would also argue was created by God - as a gift to human beings.
I do not believe that any other animals will evolve to the level of Consciousness that human beings have - at least not on this planet! I do not believe that was in the original design. Of course I do not know - I only believe and I do not wish to imply that by having a high level of consciousness that human beings are any better than any other animals. The opposite has so often been true, and continues to be.
We have wasted this precious gift from God - our ability to think and form moral concepts - many times to perform immoral actions. Our marvelous ability to think has so far been translated into developing an arms industry that has roughly ten times the amount of money more than it would cost to provide everyone on this planet with the basic necessities of life. ("Annual military spending is 10 times the money needed globally to provide basic food, water, health care and housing." World Health Organization)
Many of the wars that prop up and help develop that arms industry are caused by religious differences and supposedly supported by each religions "God". Note I said this result emanated from the ability to think not the ability to Reason which is different.
As I said earlier in this article I think it is the ability to Reason that really constitutes the chief ingredient of higher Consciousness. If people really would do this many wars would cease immediately because people would realize that they are fighting for conflicting myths not the real word of God which is Nature. That is why Deism is so badly needed.
Given then that Consciousness does exist in human beings and can be developed to higher levels this does bring us back to the question as to how it actually arises in the material world.
Material scientists and psychologists consider consciousness to be something called an emergent property. That is they believe that consciousness which is not a material entity can only arise from a material entity. It emerges from it and is thus an emergent property. In other words, a mind arises from a physical brain. It cannot arise without a physical brain and cannot exist independently of it, they believe.
Now this is an interesting thought for a Deist because some Deists do believe that consciousness can exist independently of a brain because some believe that they live on in a none material form after death. Although of course no-one, to my knowledge at least, has produced any evidence of this. However that does not preclude that it may be a correct belief - we shall have to wait and see!
I do think however that most Deists would agree that consciousness on the material plane does not exist independently of a material host i.e. a brain. That is Deists do not believe in discarnate entities such a spectres, ghosts, angels, demons, spirits etc.
It is possible however for Deists to agree with the materialist scientists that consciousness is an emergent property. The only way Deists would be at odds with the way materialist scientists view consciousness as an emergent property would be that while materialist scientists would consider that consciousness as an emergent property was for them proof of no God for a Deist it would be the opposite. It would be proof of God.
The reason for this is that most materialist scientists are Atheists and their understanding of religion is usually that of very traditional religious ideas. Most religions believe that human being have a soul or a spirit that is bequeathed to them somehow by God. That is that the soul or spirit is sent into the human body and that it is fundamentally of a different material than pure matter. The ancient philosophers called this Mind. That is Mind as separate from Matter.
Early Christian church theologians thought that the soul was put into the fetus in a process called "quickening". Pope Innocent III (1161-1216): determined that a monk who had arranged for his lover to have an abortion was not guilty of murder if the fetus was not "animated" at the time.
Early in the 13th century, he stated that the soul enters the body of the fetus at the time of "quickening" - when the woman first feels movement of the fetus. (This makes current arguments of the Roman Catholic church's position on abortion somewhat interesting. This is an aside but it would appear that their interpretation is that God's "truth" changes over time!)
However basically no-one thought that consciousness which could also be another name for that which others have called the soul or the spirit - that is the essence of a person - could have been an emergent property of matter. However it is perfectly possible that God, the Creative Intelligence so ordered his Creation that this was one of the latent processes that was inherent in the Big Bang. That human consciousness would arise as an emergent property of the brain.
It would not make Consciousness any the less precious for coming about that way. Nor would it preclude the possibility that although Consciousness had arisen out of Matter that is could not continue to live independently from it, in another realm closer to God after death. After all God can presume any laws that He wants. Therefore even if Consciousness is conceived as being an emergent property arising from the existence of the brain it does not preclude life after death.
Or even if life after death is not a reality it does not mean that Consciousness itself is not a gift from God to be valued just because it came about as an emergent property. I think Consciousness itself is about as close as a human being can get to the Essence of God therefore to live this life - the only one we have proof of - with as full a Consciousness as we possibly can is part of our life's purpose.
Consciousness is a Sacred Gift and even if it came into existence as an emergent property that process in itself is not proof of the none existence of God as the Atheist materialist scientists would like us to believe. I have had this argument with them several times and I have not found anyone to be able to refute, at least, the possibility of it not being true.
The main reason they had never thought of this possibility was because the only conceptions they had of God and human Consciousness had been derived from traditional religious ideas and they had never come across a Deistic explanation. They had, like so many other people in their rejection of religion, confused religion with God and thrown out the baby with the bathwater so to speak.
This is why Deism is so needed today and part of our job as Deists is to impart it into peoples Consciousness so people know that they can reject the falsehoods and oppression of religion without rejecting God. And to find a philosophy in Deism that far from considering developing Consciousness and the knowledge of good and evil as a sin - it is elevated through Reason to the second highest God given gift after Life itself.