You’ve probably heard the saying: “When you assume . . . you make a sum of As and e.” For you non-chemists, that would be arsenic plus one electron making an arsenic ion with a charge of negative one. That’s not a very stable ion, so it’s not really found in nature, thus the saying makes it clear that assuming is pretty unstable grounds for anyone to base life choices on.

You’re telling me you heard a different version of that saying? Oh well, you get the point. Except that’s not my point.

Everybody assumes. Assumptions underlie all our strongest convictions. No one is exempt. In fact, much of our war of words–the battle some wage between science and religion, between liberal and conservative, between literal believer and symbolic believer, between whole-hearted supporter and loving critic of the Brethren–is an often unrecognized war of assumptions. I want to frame for you, hopefully in a new way, different assumptions we make about the universe and about God. Many of the assumptions about the universe are currently discussed by working cosmologists. Many of the assumptions about God have been discussed for millennia. Most of the assumptions I favor are shaped by Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Some of the assumptions might be testable, soon, and others never will be directly testable. Why might you care about these assumptions? From certain assumptions, Science can disprove God. From other assumptions, Science can’t teach you anything about God and Faith. From still others, Science reveals God, or at least aspects of God, to us. Do you want Science and God to be at war? Do you want Science and God to be separate realms of understanding? Do you want Science to prove or disprove God’s existence? Do you want Science to reveal God’s glory? Do you want Science to assist religion in teaching you to become gods? Do you simply want to know what’s true, or what’s good? What science does for (or to) religion depends implicitly on assumptions each of us makes about Science and about God.

In the following posts I’m not going to argue much for or against a particular set of assumptions, and I’ll only give hints of the consequences of making certain assumptions, or of prioritizing certain assumptions over others. I am going to lay out, as best I can, some of the unproven, and in many cases unprovable, assumptions that we can and must make about the nature of existence. Which assumptions you choose affect such things as your belief in God, your willingness to learn new things, and your prioritization of ethical choices–like how you balance the giving of your time and resources to temple and missionary work or helping the poor. We all make these assumptions, even if we don’t recognize or acknowledge them. They shape and are shaped by both our thoughts and our feelings. So take a walk with me through a tangle of assumptions and see if you can’t figure out just what you take for granted about reality.

The Outline

I’m going to summarize my next three posts right here. Part 1 will appear over the next two days. Parts 2 and 3 will follow in a month. If I’ve piqued your curiosity, come back tomorrow for a second helping.

  1. Assumptions about the Universe
    1. Universe or Multiverse?
    2. Finite or Infinite?
      • Flat or Curved
      • Finite numbers of forces and subatomic particles, or not
      • Big and Small (and Infinite) Infinities
      • Variation among universes
      • Something between/surrounding universes, or not
    3.  Assumptions about Evidence
      • Only objective, only subjective, or a mix
      • What mix is acceptable/admissible
  2. Assumptions about God
    1. Limited or unlimited knowledge, power, or presence
      • What is the nature of the limitations
    2. Assumptions about God’s purposes
      • Assumptions about the best ways to achieve those purposes
    3. One God or family of Gods
      • Nature of God’s family
    4. Human interaction with God
      • How involved is God, and how is God involved
  3. Conclusions: We all make assumptions, whether we identify them explicitly or not. Those assumptions bear on such important matters as our belief in God, how we react to new learning, how we feel about good and evil in the world, and how and where we devote our time and resources. For me, it’s worth taking the time to explore and evaluate these assumptions consciously, and you are invited to join me or observe my exploration.

Tomorrow https://rationalfaiths.com/multiverse-shapes-laws/

Jonathan lives in rural Georgia with his wife and three boys, teaching Chemistry and enjoying the good people of his community. He studied Molecular Biology at Brigham Young University, and Biophysics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Jonathan is passionate about fatherhood, teaching and learning, Mormonism, and dance (he’s much better at the first three), and dabbles in home repairs, various crafts, poetry, music, gardening, and Transhumanism. He has enjoyed many years working in Primary, with Young Adults and Ward Missions in various capacities. He currently enjoys serving in his ward and community however he is able. He posts on whatever interests him at the moment at http://jonathan.metacannon.net/

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