August 19, 2019
In the previous post, “Wrong View of Creationism (and Eternal Future Life) – Part 1“, we discussed some problems associated with creationism. We will continue that discussion.
How Did the Creator Come to Existence?
Now we can get to the issues which are common to Abrahamic religions and Hinduism.
1. First of all, the inevitable question is, how did the Creator (God or Mahā Brahma) come to existence? The Principle of Causality, the foundation of modern science, says things do not happen or materialize without causes.
- The idea of a Creator as “the First Cause” has a long history; see the Wikipedia article, “Cosmological argument.”
- Logically it cannot be defended, but it has come to be a belief for those who have faith in a Creator.
2. In the previous post, we saw a crucial difference between Buddhism and Hinduism. (Even though the concept of rebirth is there in both.) In Hinduism, there is the belief of an everlasting existence in the Mahā Brahma realm (or reunification with the Brahman).
- Of course, a similar concept is there with Abrahamic religions too, with eternal life in heaven or hell.
- However, the idea of rebirth is absent in Abrahamic faiths.
- Let us now focus on the issue of “eternal life” after death, which is in Abrahamic religions and Hinduism.
3. In Abrahamic religions, the Creator God lives in the heavens. If one lives a moral life, one will get to live “in the heavens” forever; see the Wikipedia article, “Heaven in Christianity.”
- In Hinduism, the Creator Brahma lives in a Brahma realm; see the Wikipedia article, “Brahma.” One can be born there, by living a moral life and by cultivating jhāna.
- Therefore, all Creator-based religions assume the existence of a heavenly plane where life is permanent. Once born there, one will live forever without ever dying.
Nothing in This World Is Forever
4. Stars in the heavens appear to be serene and shiny. Even though we see beautiful and calm “starry nights,” the outer space is a violent place.
- In reality, a typical star converts millions of tons of mass into energy every second, with each gram releasing as much energy as an atomic bomb!
- Within the range of our telescopes, there are several supernova explosions per second. A supernova is the explosion of a star at the end of its lifetime.
- Therefore, even though our ancestors thought that Gods reside among those nice-looking stars, and the heavens are stable and peaceful, the reality is very different.
5. The Buddha’s world view (which is based on experience, as we will discuss in upcoming posts) is that no existence is everlasting. Life in any heavenly realm (Dēva or Brahma realms) is finite, even though some can be very long lifetimes.
- At the time of the Buddha, Abrahamic religions were not there. He has addressed the issue of everlasting life in the Mahā Brahma realm in several suttas. We will discuss that in future posts.
- Before that, let us look at the scientific evidence that any type of matter (which essential for life) has a finite lifetime.
6. A permanently-existing heavenly body is in contradiction with modern science as well as with Buddha’s description of 31 realms where every life ends at some point. Even though Dēva and Brahma realms have long lifetimes, they are not free of death.
- In current scientific theories, the whole universe will run down in several billion years.
- Furthermore, each star is either destroyed in a violent blast (some are called “supernova”) or will be subjected to “heat death” reaching the white dwarf stage; see the Wikipedia article, “Star.”
- In Buddha Dhamma, clusters of star systems (cakkavāla) get destroyed periodically. Even though higher-lying realms do survive, living beings in those realms also have finite lifetimes. After many billions of years, those star systems re-form. So, it is a cyclic process where destruction is followed by rebirth (re-formation), just like for a living being; see, “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)“.
The Problem of Suffering
7. Then there is the critical issue of why would a Creator let the man that he created to suffer? He could have created a suffering-free world.
- The general explanation in Christianity is that Adam and Eve sinned.
- But the Creator could have made it not possible for Adam and Eve to sin. Furthermore, it does not make sense for the descendants to punished for the sins of Adam and Eve.
- And why is it that some are born to suffer (mentally retarded or handicapped, for example)? What is the explanation for some people born that way? Also, why are some born poor, compared to others who are born rich?
8. As I mentioned in a previous post, “Views on Life – Wrong View of Materialism,” some scientists like Francis Collins and James Tour have given up belief in the theory of evolution. They have become proponents of creationism since they do not see another option.
- We discussed James Tour’s views in the post, “Origin of Life – There is No Traceable Origin.”
9. Francis Collins has written a book about why he changed his views to become a creationist. I have written a post to critically examine the issues that he could not explain with creationism: “The Language of God” by Francis Collins.” Please read that post for details, but the following are the key points.
- As I pointed out there, Dr. Collins faced the same difficulties as C. S. Lewis in trying to explain why God left room for suffering.
- Why would God allow the existence of Satan and the associated immoral behavior by people? The main conclusion was that God chose to give the man free will, and the man abused it. But God could have given free will without the existence of Satan or the ability to sin.
- The existence of “Moral Law” (the ability to differentiate right from wrong) is the fundamental basis for his belief in God. However, that argument works for all religions.
- These are critical issues that do not have answers in creationism world views.
Debate Between Materialists and Creationists
10. In the last few posts, I presented the two sides as Evolutionists and creationists. However, some creationists do not have a problem with Darwin’s theory of evolution if it just pertains to the “evolution of species.”
- The critical issue for them is about the “origin of life” and not the evolution of species. In other words, many creationists agree that once life got started with simple life-forms, more complex life-forms evolved gradually.
- In fundamental terms, the critical question is, “how did the first cell come to existence”?
11. Of course, the evolutionists believe that the first living cell also evolved, starting from inert atoms and molecules.
- However, evolutionists have very little to say about how a first cell came to existence. I have read many books by evolutionists, and they mainly discuss just the evolution of species. They have very little evidence or even feasibility of how complex DNA molecules assembled, starting with simple atoms and molecules in random chemical reactions.
- They have even less to say about how the genetic code could have evolved. As I emphasized in previous posts, it is hard to imagine how such a program could develop in a random process. We know that computer codes do not “evolve.” Furthermore, any accidental changes in the working computer code will only break that code, not make it better!
Intelligent Design Argument
12. As I mentioned above, some scientists have convinced themselves that a living cell with DNA code can’t evolve. However, they are not comfortable with the concept of a Creator God.
- They have come up with the concept of “intelligent design.” They do not explicitly invoke a Creator God but insist that a higher intelligence must have designed a living cell.
- That is also called the “Teleological argument.” See the Wikipedia article, “Teleological argument.”
13. As explained in that Wikipedia article, the phrase “argument from design” was first used by William Paley, an English clergyman, in 1802. He said that if one finds a clock on the beach, one can safely conclude that the watch must have had a designer. In the same way, complex living beings must have had a “designer.”
- Modern advocates of the intelligent design argument point out that a cell is much more complicated than a watch, and that it could not have evolved due to random processes.
- However, that does not solve the problem. Such a “designer” must have super-human capabilities, and thus is not that different from the idea of a Creator. The idea of a creator or a designer runs contradictory to the Principle of Causation, upon which science is based (see #1 above).
14. The existence of permanent life and suffering are two critical problems with the creator-based origin of life. However, there are many related issues.
- Can the life of a human arise randomly? In other words, why are humans born under very different conditions of health, wealth, beauty, etc.? Neither evolutionists nor creationists (or “intelligent designers”) can explain it. They all say, “it just happens that way.”
- The second issue has to do with the origin of life (not the evolution of species). How did life originate? For example, how did the first cell with its complex double-helix DNA structure AND the genetic code come to existence? The two sides have different explanations for that issue.
15. Materialists believe that a living cell can arise via random jostling of atoms and molecules which are inert “matter.” The critical question here is, is it at all possible for that to happen in a random process? Another significant issue that we have not even discussed is: How can feelings, perception, desires, hopes, etc. arise from “dead matter”?
- Creationists (and those who believe that a creator or a designer with super-human intelligence in “intelligent design”) created living cells. That creator gave life to inert matter. There the question is, how did that creator or designer come to existence?
16. In Buddha Dhamma, this “intelligent designer” is none other than Nature. The life itself was not created but has existed forever. That is consistent with the Principle of Causality. Of course, Buddha provided (indirect) evidence in terms of a fully self-consistent “theory.”
- Furthermore, the mental qualities of a human are the CAUSES of existence (rebirth): It is not possible to create a life-stream. All existing life-streams have ALWAYS existed. That life-form takes different forms in different existences (not only human and animal, but among 31 possible realms). See, “What Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream“.
- Future existences of a given life-stream DEPEND on the “mental qualities” (and actions, speech, thoughts that arise BASED ON those mental qualities) of that life-stream.
- Suffering and pleasure exist in this world. Both arise due to previous actions (kamma). And one’s deeds are based on one’s mental state at that time.
17. When one understands those key concepts, one will “see” that there is no “attā” or “soul” or “ātma” going from birth-to-birth. That is the first stage of Sammā Ditthi. Causes (kamma) and conditions lead to corresponding outcomes (kamma vipāka) per Paticca Samuppāda. That understanding is the key to removing “sakkāya ditthi.”
- We will first discuss those “mental qualities” next. It is essential to understand those to discuss Buddha’s teachings of life. His world views were not speculation but based on his ability to “see” how life progressed over trillions of years in the past. It is NOT JUST a logical or philosophical argument, even though it is self-consistent.
- It is critical to understand the essential points discussed so far to continue with upcoming posts. I recommend re-reading #16 and #17 until those key ideas are grasped at least vaguely.