NPR Cosmos & Culture has a good article by Marcelo Gleiser on “Astrotheology: Do Gods Need To Be Supernatural?” The best answer, discussed also in the last post (and others), is: no, and there are probably “natural Gods” out there.
Gleiser notes that some futurists are convinced that within a few decades we will get to such a deep stage of hybridization with machines that we will not be able to pull apart from them anymore, and wonders where we will go from there. Perhaps transcendent evolution has already happened elsewhere:
“[Imagine] that in some corner of the galaxy, other intelligent creatures also discovered some version of science. But they did so, say, a million years before us, which, in cosmic time, is not much. These creatures would now be machine-hybrids, completely different from what they once were. As Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” a theme myself and co-blogger Adam have been focusing on these past few weeks.
“Perhaps “they” are only information, free-floating in coded energy fields spread across space. Perhaps they have, much beyond anything we can presently contemplate, the power to create life, choosing its properties at will. They could, for example, have created us, or some of our ancestors, as part of an experiment in their version of evolutionary genetics, or as a test bed in a study of the relation between intelligence and morality. They could, perhaps, be observing us, as we observe animals in a zoo or a laboratory. These entities, immaterial but living as self-sustaining bundles of information, could have been our creators. Would they be gods, even if not supernatural?”
My answer is yes, they would be Gods relative to us.
Richard Dawkins (yes, Dawkins, the leading atheist thinker) says that “It’s highly plausible that in the universe there are God-like creatures.” In his book, “The God Delusion,” he writes:
“Whether we ever get to know them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century.
“Imagine his response to a laptop computer, a mobile telephone, a hydrogen bomb or a jumbo jet. As Arthur C Clarke put it, in his Third Law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ The miracles wrought by our technology would have seemed to the ancients no less remarkable than the tales of Moses parting the waters, or Jesus walking upon them. The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods . . .
“In what sense, then, would the most advanced SETI aliens not be gods? In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense, which goes to the heart of this book. The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way. Science-fiction authors . . . have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization. But the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution…”
These natural Gods would share the most important attributes of the Gods of religion. “Supernatural” and “omnipotent” are abstract concepts (I think both are a contradiction in terms). In philosophy and mathematics there are definitions of infinity, but in physics and engineering, and in practical life, infinite just means very big (much bigger than other factors). I think some civilizations out there may be Godlike in this sense, and powerful beyond our understanding and even imagination. Seen from our current point of view, these civilization would be like Gods.