Life on Mars

The scientists have declared that God is dead. And after decades of painstaking investigation, they’ve concluded that the only thing out there worthy of note is … dark matter. Now, most of us lesser mortals don’t have a clue what this obscure phenomenon is and, provided the National Grid keeps running, don’t much care either. But to the fertile, enquiring mind, dark matter is – if you’ll pardon the pun – a matter of vital importance.

Scientists are a strange bunch. They hang around in laboratories, analysing minute particles of the universe, while everyone else has gone home. And perhaps with good reason. After all, everything in the known universe has, at some point, been quantified and tested, proved or disproved by science. Given the collected intellect brought to bear on such matters, it isn’t surprising that certain long held beliefs would have to go. Facing skepticism on this scale, God himself was on a hiding to nothing.

So where does this leave religion? Without entering into a debate about the role of faith in the enlightened age, something has to be said about choice. The greatest freedom a man can have is the freedom to believe what he likes, regardless of the views of others. Organised religion has long been used as a tool to prevent this, imposing its own brand of slavery on the common herd. But religion isn’t the only culprit.

Atheism is the new raga. Its spokesmen, people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, talk eloquently and convincingly about the validity of their non-beliefs. Science, they claim, has finally and irrefutably disproven the existence of God. Armed with these ‘facts’ and a healthy dose of cynicism for any critics they might meet, they and others like them have set out on the lecture circuit to win new converts.

We live in fascinating times. The World Wide Web brings us up to date news and media coverage at a rate previously unimagined. Tap the most obscure word into a google search and you’ll find reams of information at your fingertips. YouTube hosts video footage from around the globe, with subjects as diverse as Man Walks Dog to Fly-Fishing In Suburbia. (Well … you know what I mean).

But has technology enabled us to make better choices? Are we right to embrace science as the alpha and omega, the pure fount of all knowledge? I have my reservations. Name me one scientist who has unlocked the secrets of a woman’s mind? Or why it takes some drivers ten-seconds to pull away from traffic lights. These things are as inexplicable as the universe itself and can’t be worked out under a microscope.

It takes a colossal arrogance to claim there are no more mysteries, no new frontiers. And coming from something as deeply flawed as a man, such a claim would seem even more outlandish. Faith, or its absence, is and always will be a matter of personal choice. The spirit of debate has its place, we just don’t need either proposition rammed down our throats by people with nothing better to do.

Perhaps Voltaire should have the last word. ‘If God didn’t exist, we’d need to invent him.’

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