Complex Structure

My next Extended God Puzzle piece is on complex structure. I was never sure what to call it as I’m not sure the exact formal meanings of complexity or structure. What I mean by using the two together is an arrangement of matter and energy that does not have a simple easy to describe order to it, and yet is not really random or uniform in it’s distribution. It is neither boringly simple nor overly complex. It’s somehow more than the physical position and distribution of the atoms.

ordered = simple, not complex,
low information content
interesting = complex structure
uniform = no structure, random,
high information content

What I’m suggesting in this God Puzzle piece is that what we see around us is more like the middle distribution than the other two, and that this structured complexity, however it came about, points to a designer. It may be that over time there is a flow from order to uniformity, through complex structure, but the exact form of the complex structure is still significant.

When you turn the focus dial on a camera, the image gradually appears out of the blur, coming into sharp relief, before melting away again. The scene was always there but it only became visible for a short while. The complex structure we see all around us is like that. The universe was always set up to produce it, even though it is only now coming into focus, and it may one day recede from our vision.

I’m just saying, it’s worth wondering about. Don’t let our descriptions shut the door to thoughts of a designer. Rather, let them draw you in open you up to the possibility of a creator.

Anyway, here is my latest Extended God Puzzle video on complex structure. See if you can spot the the Clangers reference:

Secrets of Success

In researching my next Extended God Puzzle piece, I gleaned some fascinating wisdom and insights from Jewish Rabbis and leaders about the keys to their success. The Jewish Bible, that is the Christians’ Old Testament, has so shaped Jewish culture and values that, all things being equal, life can work really well for them.

If the Bible really is authored by God, then I guess we might expect that. The trouble is of course, that all things are not always “equal,” and over the course of their history, the Jews have not only at times prospered, but have also been subject to sustained and vicious persecution. Interesting it turns out that the two are intimately linked.

In the video I share some of the principles that have helped the Jewish people to enjoy a remarkable measure of succeed. I also explore the link between their prospering and their persecution. I don’t, however, explicitly mention the main, foundational one, which is that though the world was made by God, it has rebelled against God. While living God’s way should be the most successful way, because God’s rule has been rejected, it also can get you into an awful lot of trouble.

An interesting question then arises: Why continue to do things God’s way if it can make life harder?

A few bullet points will have to do for now:

  • Success is not God, God is God.
  • Many have come (with good reason) to love God.
  • God’s rule will one day be fully established and his enemies overthrown.
  • Every loss will one day result in massively multiplied gain.
  • Enduring suffering for living God’s way now, can shine out God’s goodness just as much as, perhaps more than, enjoying success for living God’s way.
  • God himself is our treasure. The secret to success is knowing him and his love for us in Jesus.

Anyway, the basic idea in this God Puzzle piece is that the prospering and persecution of the Jewish people stand out in history, and should provoke us to consider if their preservation is at all providential. (That’s a lot of p’s I know.) Maybe check out the video if you haven’t already.

The original short animated video is here. I made all these short animated intros (usually around 3 minutes) so that all the puzzle pieces could be taken in together. There are about 14 so you can watch them all back to back in under an hour if you so wished! Or you could just taste an individual one briefly to see if it was of interest. The extended talking head videos are around 10-15 minutes, allowing each piece to be explored in bit more detail.

It’s all on the God Puzzle website, and the “coffee table” book version of the short animated videos is here.

‘A foul-beaked canary’

In her book Swearing is Good for You, AI researcher and author Emma Byrne described swearing as:

A foul-beaked canary in the coalmine—that tells us what our social taboos are.

Emma Byrne

It’s an interesting book title, but I think she’s right about the canary. Swearing comes from a very deep part of our brain, revealing our unconscious convictions.

A taboo is:

a social or religious custom prohibiting or restricting a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.

Oxford’s English dictionary

So the idea is that swearing is doing something we know to be deeply wrong. It crosses a social or sacred boundary line. It puts something in a place or context it should not be. It treats something or someone in a way that is not right. Perhaps putting a bad thing in a good place or a good thing in the wrong place.

In his book Swearing: A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Study, Magnus Ljung, lists five major themes from which most languages draw their swear words. The first one, religion, has become a particularly rich source of swear words. My basic contention in this next extended God puzzle piece, is that this theistic sort of swearing indicates, at some level, that we still recognise something sacred about God.

So the next time you hear God’s name taken in vain, remember the canary. You might just be listening to a telling tweet indicating something truly sacred is being desecrated. And if that points you to God in some way, then maybe, yes, we could say that swearing had been genuinely good for you.

Maximising Morality

A few years ago, I made some short videos about things which I thought pointed me to God’s existence. Each was only a couple of minutes long, so that they could more easily be seen and taken in together. The idea was that when fitted together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a partial picture of God would be revealed.

More recently I have been unpacking each piece in more detail in my “Extended” series of videos. This latest one is about morality.

It seems to me that some things are just plain wrong, independent of our opinions or beliefs. Just like I am sure the external world exists, I am sure objective moral values exist. The first I experience with my physical senses, and the second with, well I’m not sure. My conscience? My spirit? Whatever I call it, I experience morality to be almost as real as matter. I could be wrong about that, but I could also be a brain in a vat.

So if I take my experience of morality seriously, what can I infer from it? What would give morality the depth of objectivity that matches my experience of it? What would maximise the objectivity of morality?

That’s what I explore in this latest video.

Where does Love Lead?

My recent extended God Puzzle video on love draws upon some of the ideas in my new book Designed for Drama.

So many movies are about love – romantic love, fatherly love, and self-sacrificial love – and, as I say in the book:

The fictional stories we create and consume are not just idle, childish escapism. They give us a much needed vantage point from which to see reality more clearly. Crisis, foreshadowing, dramatic irony, dénouement—in fact all the dramatic elements we have looked at and more—are not simply pragmatic devices designed to stir our emotions for a couple of hours in the local multiplex. They are woven into the very fabric of history as God tells his story. They are there to engage us and ignite our emotions so that we can play our part in this “theatre of divine glory.”

Our fascination with love is more than just a desire to propagate our genetic code. It’s a pointer to the very reason for our existence.

A godly ‘romance’ is at the heart of the universe and is the key to all existence.  

Paul Billheimer

The goal of history is a wedding were God’s people are united with the Son of God.

Right now, we can enjoy, by the Holy Spirit, God’s Fatherly love for us in Christ.

And all all this was achieved by Jesus’ self-sacrificial love for us on the cross.

No wonder love crops up so much in so many of our stories. I give lots of examples in the video but watch out the central importance of romantic, fatherly, and self-sacrificial love in the next films you watch. And look where it leads.

Anyway, here is the video in case your interested to hear a bit more: