If there is/was a designer, what form does/did it have? We have mentioned the possibility of a giant physical being (or maybe several beings) that could take the Earth in the palm of its hand. The universe itself may be a body or bodies. But there is also the possibility of a totally different form of life that we are unable to perceive – what people call the spirit world. Fantasy? Maybe, but remember that any explanation we come up with will seem fantastic – none more so than the faith that total unconsciousness could randomly create consciousness.

Is there any evidence of a different form of life? It depends what you mean by "evidence". Thousands if not millions of people down through the ages have reported seeing ghosts. There are people who say they have made contact with the dead, or have lived before. Others claim to have special powers: healers, clairvoyants, telepaths, prophets, mediums. Is every single one of these a fake, or a self-deluder? You only need one genuine case to show that there are forms and forces of life beyond those that we know. In my wife's family (she comes from Nigeria) a child died and another was born soon after. The second child, while still an infant, recalled scenes from the dead child's life that he could not possibly have known from his own childhood. I myself, when living in Ghana, where I spent four years, saw a boy cut himself with broken glass and not bleed, and thrust his hand into the fire and not burn. At the time he was under the influence of a juju. What we regard as supernatural belongs to everyday life in parts of Africa. The atheistic scientist may scoff but, as we have seen, science is not equipped to explain such phenomena. (In The God Delusion, Dawkins does not even scoff. He does not mention psychic phenomena at all.) The agnostic remains open-minded. He has to acknowledge that there may be genuine cases of all the above.

What, then, would this imply about our maker? If it is/was not a physical being, it is/was a so-called spiritual being. This may seem to contradict the image of the scientist manipulating his materials, but once we take the step of acknowledging spiritual powers, we must acknowledge telekinesis. A ‘spirit’ can move an object. I hesitate to call it a mind, since that is so closely associated with the brain, but ‘spirit’ too has unwanted associations. Some would use the word ‘soul’, but it sounds too religious. I will stick to ‘spirit’.

If the designer is/was a physical being, either it has departed, or it is still there but we have failed to recognize it as such with our scientific instruments. Perhaps it is simply too big for us to discern its shape. Or perhaps it exists in another dimension. String theory and superstring theory suggest that there may be as many as 10 or 11 dimensions, compared to the meagre four that we are aware of. If, however, the designer is/was a spiritual being, we can only recognize it through our own spirit – the mental powers encased within our brains. Some scientists will inevitably argue that when the brain dies, the mental powers die (“inevitably” because science is only equipped to deal with the physical world), but your ghosts and your mediums suggest otherwise. Once again, the design may reflect the designer, and may take the form of a spirit.

Does the spirit die? The question sounds theological, but that is because of the word itself. Try to strip it of its associations, and instead concentrate on the idea that it is a form of life different from the physical one we know. Perhaps this will be easier if we take a physical analogy. When we look at each other, what we see is the person who existed one five-hundred-millionth of a second ago. When we look at a star that is 186,281 miles away, we see it as it was one second ago. If I had a telescope that could focus on an object 660 million miles away, I would see it as it was an hour ago. The greater the distance, the further back into the past we can see. Modern technology is working on this even as I write and as you read. We can already see things millions of light years away. Theoretically, it means that nothing is lost so long as light is able to travel. A telescope on a planet X billion miles away would enable the observer to watch the crucifixion. There are, then, waves that go on for ever.

I am not saying that the spirit goes on for ever. I am an agnostic, and I do not know. I am saying that it is a possibility. That is all we can ever say if we are not able to take the leap of irrational faith which endows atheists and religious believers with their certainty. And so, if it is a possibility, we should examine its implications for ourselves (which we shall do in the next chapter) and for our designer. The designer may or may not live for ever, but what seems more likely than not is that it lived or will live a great deal longer than us. The formation of the Earth took aeons, and the idea that the designer rattled off the whole mechanism of life within, say, seventy years (let alone six days) doesn’t fit in very well with any conceivable motive for making the design in the first place. On the analogy of the designer reflecting the image of the design, one can’t help feeling that it would have wanted to see the outcome of its work. Whether conscious existence was planned from the start, or came about after much experimentation, or evolved gradually from increasing levels of consciousness sparked off by a mutation (deliberate or accidental), the scientific fact remains that it followed on from millions of years of pretty basic stuff: birth, survival by various means, reproduction, death. There is no fossil record of amoebas or dinosaurs having built churches, or having come up with any new technology to master the natural world, or having mounted a challenge to the very existence of the designer. If the latter’s purpose was to provide itself with entertainment, it is unlikely to have walked away before the most exciting twists in the tale (assuming it knew what exciting possibilities it had created), or to have done its work in such a way that it would die before seeing them. What seems most probable is that the observer will stay on till the end of the story.

We are therefore left with the following choices: 1) the unbelievable creative genius of pure chance (= atheism); 2) a physical designer which we cannot see, either because it is dead, has gone away to another part of the universe, or is unrecognizable to our perception; 3) a spirit designer with the same qualifications – dead, gone away, or unperceivable (the ‘spirit’, remember, being a word for some other, non-corporeal form of life). In the second and third scenarios, we must assume that the designer had some sort of motivation for its work, and this seems likely to have involved interest in the outcome. We can’t measure the time scale by our own standards – the designer’s scale runs into millions of years. As the hymn puts it: “A thousand ages in thy sight / are but an evening gone.” In that case, it seems unlikely (that is as far as one can go in one’s speculations) that in the short time humans have been on the Earth, the designer would have got fed up with the whole thing and packed its bags.

There is no comfort in any of this. Nobody likes being under surveillance, and the idea that some mighty power is watching every move is thoroughly off-putting. So too is the idea that this power couldn’t care less what happens to us. So too is the idea that we are entirely on our own, at the mercy of the random catastrophes we are exposed to. So too is the idea that we are only there as entertainment, and our suffering is part of the performing rights. So too, if we take the two possibilities open to ourselves, are the prospects of eternal death and eternal life, but we shall look at these later. For the moment, it is the designer and not the design on which we are focusing, and for the moment what we see is both frightening and depressing. Religion is no help at all. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," commands Jesus (Matthew 22, 37). "Fear God," says Peter, his disciple (1st Epistle General, 2, 17). Can we love what we fear? Imagine being told by your father: “Love me, or I’ll beat you to a pulp.” But we are a long way from exhausting the possibilities of our scenarios. The designer, after all, is infinitely cleverer than we are, and since it has been able to create such a vast variety of patterns, it is not unreasonable to assume that it has plenty more tricks up its sleeve.

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8. Endings

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