What is Reality?
You might want to look at four related videos at the bottom of the page.
What is the final reality behind this world ? All of us want to know that more than anything. But most of us have heard a lot of glib talk and shallow use of language, so that we are almost incapable of dealing with this vital issue in an unprejudiced way. Be patient as you watch and read and then reflect on these things yourself.
by Ernest O'Neill
Is there a God? Is there a supreme being who is behind this world and who still in some way supports and sustains it? Many of us of course have no doubt about that answer, because we look at some of the things that you see here in this garden. You look just at this leaf and you think, "Now, who designed that, or who created it?” Or you're lifting up another one that is completely different. It's beautifully symmetrical -- and really, in many ways, more beautiful than anything we men or women can make.
What’s behind everything we see?
And so for many of us, it's not important whether everything started with a big bang or whether we evolved from scum on a pond like this into more complex beings. In many of our minds, we simply say, "Even if there was evolution -- and there certainly is evolution within the species -- even if there was evolution, there had to be someone who made the first thing that evolved, made the first scum on the first pond." Even if there was an explosion and many of us who have lived in Ireland are doubtful that explosions create anything -- but even if there was a big bang, what made the big bang?
So most of us I think these days may differ over what happened after the initial creation took place -- but we're in little doubt that the only way to explain all this around here is that there was some Supreme Being who produced it. Some people say, "Of course, well it may not have been a Supreme Being. It might have been some élan vital -- some impersonal force." And yet it's very hard to believe that, isn't it, in the light of what has been created? Surely a dog could not make me or could not make you. Surely it has to be someone at least as personable as we ourselves are to create this kind of thing.
What do the smartest people think about this?
Now, I think often you would feel as I did, "Well, I'm one little human being with a puny little mind, a little intelligence -- not a great deal. How can I answer the question, 'Is there a God?' What about the people who are really intellectual? What do they think? Aren't they the ones that create all the doubt about whether there's a supreme being or not?"
Well, you remember the greatest intellect that we have seen in our generation, Albert Einstein. And here's what he said about the order that he found in the world: "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself from the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe forms my idea of God." And so, that is the opinion of probably the one, we would say, that was the greatest intellectual that we have known during our era.
Many of us will say, "Oh well, it's all explained you know by evolution. Darwin explained it that way -- by his discoveries. The whole thing came about through evolution. There is order and design in it but it's come about after a long series of developments from simple to complex forms. That's how this whole thing came about.”
Here's what Darwin says in his "Origin of Species", which you remember, is his original thesis on the subject: “There is a grandeur in this view of life [evolution], with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved."
That's Darwin, the one that we call often the "Father of Evolution". And he said this is how I think things developed after the creator initiated the first creature or the first plant. So, even Darwin himself never mistakes evolution for an explanation of creation.
The universe seems to come from an intelligent mind.
Creation had to occur somehow. Many of us feel that it had to occur from the actions of an intelligent mind that was as personal as our own minds. Some of us, of course, realize that this is true that this is the way we normally think: in cause and effect reasoning. If we go outside the front door and we find a car there we conclude that someone left it there. Some person drove it there. We don't immediately say it has resulted from some decomposing substance -- from maybe an old rusted out Cadillac. We say, "No! That car must have been put there by some person."
Similarly, if we go outside our bedroom door and we find a simultaneous equation lying on the floor we don't conclude that the dog left it there. We conclude that some person was doing his homework and left it there. So many of us think that from the creation itself there are clues about the kind of person that created it.
It's the same with the old illustration, you remember, that one of the classical philosophers mentioned. You're walking along a path like this and you stoop down and [you find] a watch! And immediately he sees the watch. He says, "Ah! A dog must have left this here." No, no. He concludes, "There must be a watchmaker. There must be someone who is clever enough to arrange the wheels and the levers and the balances to produce as intricate and complex a piece of machinery as this."
So those of us who see things like the double helix, you remember, that Crick and Watson have used to illustrate a DNA structure -- many of us see that and we say, "Well, this is the same as the chart of the elements. There's an order and a beauty of design in this universe that forces you to think that this was created by an intelligent mind."
Why do we hold ourselves to a high moral standard?
Are there any other clues? Well, it seems to me there's a clue in the experiences that we've had during the 20th century and that we're continuing to have in the 21st century. That is the experiences of war and of revolution. There is no doubt that we human beings find it far easier to lose our tempers than to keep them. We find it far easier to be selfish than to be unselfish. We find it more natural to be insistent of our own rights and to steamroller over other people's rights than the other way around.
And yet, there's something inside us, isn't there, that says, "It's wrong to be selfish. It's wrong to insist on your own rights at the expense of others. It's wrong to want your own way and insist that others submit to you." There's something inside us that says even though you find it easier to lose your temper than to keep it, it's wrong to lose your temper.
And so it's obvious that Someone is feeding us ideas of what we ought to do and what we ought to be that are higher than the ideas that naturally take hold of our ordinary practical lives. So of course, many of us say, "When you look at the order and design of the universe and when you look at the moral sense of obligation and conscience that human beings have, it's very difficult to believe that there is anything but a supreme being behind this world that we see around us."
So I would suggest that most of us have a clear concept deep down in our own minds. Of course there is a being somewhere that is created all this that we see around us -- and that has some idea in mind for us and for it.
I talked about these things in more detail in the States some years ago. So if you're interested in thinking further about reality and life, take a look at the other four videos on this page.