Let’s help germinate this seed

May 1st, 2010 by adminadam in fiction, prose

An epic story about meeting god on a train.
Written by Harry Stottle @ fullmoon.nu

Talking to God

I met god the other day.

I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did you know it was god?

Well, I’ll explain as we go along, but basically he convinced me by having all, and I do mean ALL, the answers. Every question I flung at him he batted back with a plausible and satisfactory answer. In the end, it was easier to accept that he was god than otherwise.

Which is odd, because I’m still an atheist and we even agree on that!

It all started on the 8.20 back from Paddington. Got myself a nice window seat, no screaming brats or drunken hooligans within earshot. Not even a mobile phone in sight. Sat down, reading the paper and in he walks.

What did he look like?

Well not what you might have expected that’s for sure. He was about 30, wearing a pair of jeans and a “hobgoblin” tee shirt. Definitely casual. Looked like he could have been a social worker or perhaps a programmer like myself.

Anyone sitting here?’ he said.

‘Help yourself’ I replied.

Sits down, relaxes, I ignore and back to the correspondence on genetic foods entering the food chain…

Train pulls out and a few minutes later he speaks.

Can I ask you a question?

Fighting to restrain my left eyebrow I replied ‘Yes’ in a tone which was intended to convey that I might not mind one question, and possibly a supplementary, but I really wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. ..

Why don’t you believe in god?

The Bastard!

I love this kind of conversation and can rabbit on for hours about the nonsense of theist beliefs. But I have to be in the mood! It’s like when a jehova’s witness knocks on your door 20 minutes before you’re due to have a wisdom tooth pulled. Much as you’d really love to stay… You can’t even begin the fun. And I knew, if I gave my standard reply we’d still be arguing when we got to Cardiff. I just wasn’t in the mood. I needed to fend him off.

But then I thought ‘Odd! How is this perfect stranger so obviously confident – and correct – about my atheism?’ If I’d been driving my car, it wouldn’t have been such a mystery. I’ve got the Darwin fish on the back of mine – the antidote to that twee christian fish you see all over. So anyone spotting that and understanding it would have been in a position to guess my beliefs. But I was on a train and not even wearing my Darwin “Evolve” tshirt that day. And ‘The Independent’ isn’t a registered flag for card carrying atheists, so what, I wondered, had given the game away.

‘What makes you so certain that I don’t?’

Because’, he said, ‘ I am god – and you are not afraid of me

You’ll have to take my word for it of course, but there are ways you can deliver a line like that – most of which would render the speaker a candidate for an institution, or at least prozac. Some of which could be construed as mildly amusing.

Conveying it as “indifferent fact” is a difficult task but that’s exactly how it came across. Nothing in his tone or attitude struck me as even mildly out of place with that statement. He said it because he believed it and his rationality did not appear to be drug induced or the result of a mental breakdown.

‘And why should I believe that?’

Well’ he said, ‘why don’t you ask me a few questions. Anything you like, and see if the answers satisfy your sceptical mind?

This is going to be a short conversation after all, I thought.

‘Who am I?’

Stottle. Harry Stottle, born August 10 1947, Bristol, England. Father Paul, Mother Mary. Educated Duke of Yorks Royal Military School 1960 67, Sandhurst and Oxford, PhD in Exobiology, failed rock singer, full time trade union activist for 10 years, latterly self employed computer programmer, web author and aspiring philosopher. Married to Michelle, American citizen, two children by a previous marriage. You’re returning home after what seems to have been a successful meeting with an investor interested in your proposed product tracking anti-forgery software and protocol and you ate a full english breakfast at the hotel this morning except that, as usual, you asked them to hold the revolting english sausages and give you some extra bacon.

He paused

You’re not convinced. Hmmm… what would it take to convince you?

‘oh right! Your most secret password and its association’

A serious hacker might be able to obtain the password, but no one else and I mean


knows its association.

He did.

So how would you have played it?

I threw a few more questions about relatively insignificant but unpublicised details of my life (like what my mother claims was the first word I ever spoke – apparently “armadillo”! (Don’t ask…)) but I was already pretty convinced. I knew there were only three possible explanations at this point.

Possibility One was that I was dreaming or hallucinating. Nobody’s figured out a test for that so, at the time I think that was my dominant feeling. It did not feel real at the time. More like I was in a play. Acting my lines. Since the event, however, continuing detailed memories of it, together with my contemporaneous notes, remain available, so unless the hallucination has continued to this day, I am now inclined to reject the hallucination hypothesis. Which leaves two others.

He could have been a true telepath. No documented evidence exists of anyone ever having such profound abilities to date but it was a possibility. It would have explained how he could know my best-kept secrets. The problem with that is that it doesn’t explain anything else! In particular it doesn’t account for the answers he proceeded to give to my later questions.

As Sherlock Holmes says, when you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Good empiricist, Sherlock.

I was forced to accept at least the possibility that this man was who he claimed to be.

So now what do you do?

Well, I’ve always known that if I met god I would have a million questions for him, so I thought, ‘why not?’ and proceeded with what follows. You’ll have to allow a bit of licence in the detail of the conversation. This was, shall we say, a somewhat unusual occurrence, not to mention just a BIT weird! And yes I was a leetle bit nervous! So if I don’t get it word perfect don’t whinge! You’ll get the gist I promise.

‘Forgive me if it takes me a little time to get up to speed here, but it’s not everyday I get to question a deity’

The Deity’ he interrupted.

ooh. Touchy!’ I thought.

Not really – just correcting the image

Now That takes some getting used to!

I tried to get a grip on my thoughts, with an internal command – ‘Discipline Harry. You’ve always wanted to be in a situation like this, now you’re actually in it, you mustn’t go to pieces and waste the opportunity of a lifetime

You won’t’ he said.

Tell you! That’s the bit that made it feel unreal more than anything else – this guy sitting across the table and very obviously accurately reading my every thought. It’s like finding someone else’s hand inside your trouser pocket!

Nevertheless, something made me inclined to accept the invasion, I had obviously begun to have some confidence in his perception or abilities, so I distinctly remember the effect of his words was that I suddenly felt deeply reassured and completely relaxed. As he had no doubt intended. Man must have an amazing seduction technique!

So then we got down to business…

‘Are you human?’


‘Were you, ever?’

No, but similar, Yes

‘Ah, so you are a product of evolution?’

Most certainly – mainly my own

‘and you evolved from a species like ours, dna based organisms or something equally viable?’


so what, exactly, makes you god?’

I did’


Seemed like a good idea at the time’

‘and your present powers, are they in any way similar to what the superstitious believers in my species attribute to you?’

Close enough. ’

So you created all this, just for us?’

No. Of course not’

‘But you did create the Universe?’

This One. Yes

‘But not your own?’

This is my own!

‘You know what I mean!’

You can’t create your own parents, so No

‘So let me get this straight. You are an entirely natural phenomenon.’


‘Arising from mechanisms which we ourselves will one day understand and possibly even master?’

subject to a quibble over who “we ourselves” may be, but yes

‘meaning that if the human race doesn’t come up to the mark, other species eventually will?’

in one.

‘and how many other species are there already out there ahead of us?’

surprisingly few. Less than fourteen million



‘And how many at or about our level?’

currently a little over 4 ½ billion

‘so our significance in the universe at present is roughly equivalent to the significance of the average Joe here on planet Earth in his relation to the human race?’

a little less. Level One, the level your species has reached, begins with the invention of the flying machine. I define the next level in terms your Sci Fi Author Isaac Asimov has already grasped. It is reached when you achieve control of your own primary – the Sun. What Asimov calls a Type I technology. Humanity is only just into the flying machine phase, so as you can imagine, on that scale, the human race is somewhat near the bottom of the level one pack

‘and all these species are your children?’

I like to think of them that way

‘and the point?’

at its simplest, “Life Must Go On”. My personal motivation is the desire for conversation. Once you’ve achieved my level, you cease to be billions of separate entities and become one ecstatic whole. A single entity that cannot die, however advanced, or perhaps, more accurately, because it is so advanced, will get lonely and even a trifle bored! I seem to be the first. I do not intend to be the last

‘so you created a Universe which is potentially capable of producing another god like yourself?’

The full benefit will be temporary, but like most orgasms, worth it.’

‘this being the moment when our new god merges with you and we become one again?’

don’t play it down, that’s the ecstatic vision driving us all, me included – and when it happens the ecstasy lasts several times longer than this universe has already existed. Believe me, it really is worth the effort.

‘Yes, I think I can see the attractions of a hundred billion year long orgasm’

and humans haven’t even begun to know how to really enjoy the orgasms they are already capable of. Wait till you master that simple art!

‘So it’s all about sex is it?’

Ecstasy is merely a reward for procreating, it is what makes you want to do it. This is necessary, initially, to promote biological evolution. However once you’ve completed that stage and no longer require procreation, you will learn that ecstasy can be infinitely more intense than anything offered by sex’

‘Sounds good to me!’

‘How direct is your involvement in all this? Did you just light the fuse which set off the big bang and stand back and watch? Or did you have to plant the seeds on appropriately fertile planets?’

The seeds evolved in deep space, purely as a result of the operations of the laws of physics and chemistry which your scientists have begun to attain a reasonable grasp of. Yes I triggered the bang and essentially became dormant for nearly 5 billion years. That’s how long it took the first lifeforms to emerge. That places them some 8 billion years ahead of you. The first intelligent species are now 4.3 billion years ahead of you. Really quite advanced. I can have deeply meaningful conversations with them. And usually do. In fact I am as we speak

‘So then what?’

Do I keep a constant vigil over every move you make? Not in the kind of prying intrusive sense that some of you seem to think. Let’s say I maintain an awareness of what’s going on, at a planetary level. I tend only to focus on evolutionary leaps. See if they’re going in the right direction’

And if they’re not?’

‘Nothing. Usually


Usually species evolving in the wrong direction kill themselves off or become extinct for other reasons


There have been one or two cases where a wrong species has had the potential of becoming dominant at the expense of a more promising strain

‘Let me guess. Dinosaurs on this planet are an example. Too successful. Suppressed the development of mammals and were showing no signs of developing intelligence. So you engineered a little corrective action in the form of a suitably selected asteroid’

Perceptive. Almost correct. They were showing signs of developing intelligence, even co-operation. Study your velocirapters. But far too predatory. Incapable of ever developing a “respect” for other life forms. It takes carrying your young to promote the development of emotional attachment to other animals. Earth reptiles aren’t built for that. The mammals who are, as you rightly say, couldn’t get a foothold against such mighty predators. You’ve now reached the stage where you could hold your own even against dinosaurs, but that’s only been true for about a thousand years, you wouldn’t have stood a chance 2 million years ago, so the dinosaurs had to go. They were, however, far too well balanced with the ecology of the planet, and never developed technology, so they weren’t going to kill themselves off in a hurry. Regrettably, I had to intervene.


They were a beautiful and stunningly successful life form. One doesn’t destroy such things without a qualm.

‘But at that stage how could you know that a better prospect would arise from the ashes?’

I didn’t. But the probability was quite high.’

and since then, what other little tweaks have you been responsible for in our development?’

None whatsoever. I set an alarm for the first sign of aerial activity, as I usually do. Leonardo looked promising for a while, but not until the Montgolfier brothers did I really begin to take an interest. That registered you as a level one intelligent species’

So Jesus of Nazareth, Moses, Mohammed…’

hmmm… sadly misguided I’m afraid. Anyone capable of communicating with their own cells will dimly perceive me – and all other life as being connected in a strictly quantum sense, but interpreting that vision as representing something supernatural and requiring obeisance is somewhat wide of the mark. And their followers are all a bit too obsessive and religious for my liking. It’s no fun being worshipped once you stop being an adolescent teenager. Having said that, it’s not at all unusual for developing species to go through that phase. Until they begin to grasp how much they too can shape their small corner of the universe, they are in understandable awe of an individual dimly but correctly perceived to be responsible for the creation of the whole of that universe. Eventually, if they are to have any hope of attaining level two, they must grow out of it and begin to accept their own power and potential. It’s very akin to a child’s relationship with its parents. The awe and worship must disappear before the child can become an adult. Respect is not so bad as long as it’s not overdone. And I certainly respect all those species who make it that far. It’s a hard slog. I know. I’ve been there.’

‘You’ve been watching us since the Montgolfiers, when was that? 1650s?’

Close. 1783

‘Well, if you’ve been watching us closely since then, what your average citizen is going to want to know is why you haven’t intervened more often. Why, if you have that sort of power, did you allow such incredible suffering and human misery?’

It seems to be necessary.


Without exception, intelligent species who gain dominance over their planet do so by becoming the most efficient predators. There are many intelligent species who do not evolve to dominate their planet. Like your dolphins, they adapt perfectly to the environment rather than take your course, which is to manipulate the environment. Unfortunately for the dolphin, his is a dead end. He may outlive the human race but will never escape the bounds of planet earth – not without your help at any rate. Only those who can manipulate the world they live in can one day hope to leave it and spread their seed throughout the universe.

Unlike the adaptors, who learn the point of cooperation fairly early on, manipulators battle on. And, once all lesser species have been overcome, they are so competitive and predatory that they are compelled to turn in on themselves. This nearly always evolves into tribal competition in one form or another and becomes more and more destructive – exactly like your own history. However this competition is vital to promote the leap from biological to technological evolution.

You need an arms race in order to make progress.

Your desire to dominate fuels a search for knowledge which the adaptors never require. And although your initial desire for knowledge is selfish and destructive, it begins the development of an intellectual self awareness, a form of higher consciousness, which never emerges in any other species. Not even while they are experiencing it, for example, can the intelligent adaptors – your dolphins – express the concepts of Love or Time.

Militarisation and the development of weapons of mass destruction are your first serious test at level one. You’re still not through that phase, though the signs are promising. There is no point whatsoever in my intervening to prevent your self-destruction. Your ability to survive these urges is a crucial test of your fitness to survive later stages. So I would not, never have and never will intervene to prevent a species from destroying itself. Most, in fact, do just that.’

‘And what of pity for those have to live through this torment?’

I can’t say this in any way that doesn’t sound callous, but how much time do you spend worrying about the ants you run over in your car? I know it sounds horrendous to you, but you have to see the bigger picture. At this stage in human development, you’re becoming interesting but not yet important.

‘ah but I can’t have an intelligent conversation with an ant’


‘hmm… as you know, humans won’t like even to attempt to grasp that perspective. How can you make it more palatable?’

Why should I? You don’t appear to have any trouble grasping it. You’re by no means unique. And in any case, once they begin to understand what’s in it for them, they’ll be somewhat less inclined to moan. Eternal life compensates for most things.’

‘So what are we supposed to do in order to qualify for membership of the universal intelligentsia?’

Evolve. Survive’

‘Yes, but how?’

Oh, I thought you might have got the point by now. “How” is entirely up to you. If I have to help, then you’re a failure. All I will say is this. You’ve already passed a major hurdle in learning to live with nuclear weapons. It’s depressing how many fail at that stage.’

‘Is there worse to come?’


‘Genetic warfare for instance?

Distinct Possibility’

‘and the problem is… that we need to develop all these technologies, acquire all this dangerous knowledge in order to reach level two. But at any stage that knowledge could also cause our own destruction’

If you think the dangers of genetic warfare are serious, imagine discovering a secret thought or program, accessible to any intelligent individual, which, if abused, will eliminate your species instantly. If your progress continues as is, then you can expect to discover that particular self-destruct mechanism in less than a thousand years. Your species has got to grow up considerably before you can afford to make that discovery. And if you don’t make it, you will never leave your Solar System and join the rest of the sapient species on level two.’

’14 Million of them’

Just under’

‘Will there be room for us?’

‘it’s a big place’

‘and, for now, how should we mere mortals regard you then?’

like an older brother or sister. Of course I know more than you do. Of course I’m more powerful than you. I’ve been alive longer. But I’m not “better” than you. Just more developed. Just what you might become’

‘so we’re not obliged to “please” you or follow your alleged guidelines or anything like that?’

absolutely not. Never issued a single guideline in the lifetime of this Universe. Have to find your own way out of the maze. And one early improvement is to stop expecting me – or anyone else – to come and help you out.’

‘I suppose that is a guideline of sorts, so there goes the habit of a lifetime! ‘

‘Seriously though, species who hold on to religion past its sell-by date tend to be most likely to self destruct. They spend so much energy arguing about my true nature, and invest so much emotion in their wildly erroneous imagery that they end up killing each other over differences in definitions of something they clearly haven’t got a clue about. Ludicrous behaviour, but it does weed out the weaklings.’

‘Why me? Why pick on an atheist of all people? Why are you telling me all this? And why Now?’

‘Why You? Because can accept my existence without your ego caving in and grovelling like a naughty child. ‘

‘Can you seriously imagine how the Pope would react to the reality of my existence?! If he really understood how badly wrong he and his church have been, how much of the pain and suffering you mentioned earlier has been caused by his religion, I suspect he’d have an instant coronary! Or can you picture what it would be like if I appeared “live” simultaneously on half a dozen tele-evangelist propaganda shows. Pat Robertson would wet himself if he actually understood who he was talking to.

Conversely, your interest is purely academic. You’ve never swallowed the fairy tale but you’ve remained open to the possibility of a more advanced life form which could acquire godlike powers. You’ve correctly guessed that godhood is the destiny of life. You have shown you can and do cope with the concept. It seemed reasonable to confirm your suspicions and let you do what you will with that information.

You can and will publish this conversation on the web, where it will sow an important seed. Might take a couple of hundred years to germinate, but, eventually, it will germinate.

Why Now? Well partly because both you and the web are ready now. But chiefly because the human race is reaching a critical phase. It goes back to what we were saying about the dangers of knowledge. Essentially your species is becoming aware of that danger. When that happens to any sapient species, the future can take three courses.

Many are tempted to avoid the danger by avoiding the knowledge. Like the adaptors, they are doomed to extinction. Often pleasantly enough in the confines of their own planet until either their will to live expires or their primary turns red giant and snuffs them out.

A large number go on blindly acquiring the knowledge and don’t learn to restrain their abuse. Their fate is sealed somewhat more quickly of course, when Pandora’s box blows up in their faces.

The only ones who reach level two are those who learn to accept and to live with their most dangerous knowledge. Each and every individual in such a species must eventually become capable of destroying their entire species at any time. Yet they must learn to control themselves to the degree that they can survive even such deadly insight. And frankly, they’re the only ones we really want to see leaving their solar systems. Species that haven’t achieved that maturity could not be allowed to infect the rest of the universe, but fortunately that has never required my intervention. The knowledge always does the trick’

‘Why can’t there be a fourth option – selective research where we avoid investigating dangerous pathways?’

‘As you can see from your own limited history, the most useful ideas are also, nearly always, the most dangerous. You have yet, for instance, to conquer fusion power but you need to do so in order to achieve appropriate energy surpluses required to complete this phase of your social development. It will, when you’ve mastered it, eliminate material inequalities and poverty within a generation or two, an absolutely vital step for any maturing species. Yet the discovery of the principles which will soon yield this beneficial bounty could, had you abused them, have ended your attempt at civilisation.

Similarly, you will shortly be able to conquer biological diseases and even engineer yourselves to be virtually fault free. Your biological life spans will double or triple within the next hundred years and your digital lifespans will become potentially infinite within the same period: If you survive the potential threat that the same technology provides in the form of genetic timebombs, custom built viruses and the other wonders of genetic and digital warfare.

You simply can’t have the benefits without taking the risks’.

‘I’m not sure I understand my part in this exercise. I just publish this conversation on the web and everything will be alright?’

‘Not necessarily. Not that easy I’m afraid. To start with, who’s going to take this seriously? It will just be seen as a mildly amusing work of fiction. In fact, your words and indeed most of your work will not be understood or appreciated until some much more advanced scholars develop the ideas you are struggling to express and explain them somewhat more competently. At which point the ideas will be taken up en masse and searches will be undertaken of the archives. They will find this work and be struck by its prescience. You won’t make the Einstein grade, but you might manage John the Baptist!

This piece will have no significance whatsoever if humanity doesn’t make certain key advances in the next couple of centuries. And this won’t help you make those advances. What it will do is help you recognise them’

can I ask what those advances may be?’

‘I think you know. But yes – although you are at level one, there are several distinct phases which evolving species pass through on their way to level two. The first, as we’ve discussed, is the invention of the flying machine. The next significant phase is the development of the thinking machine.

At your present rate of progress, you are within a few decades of achieving that goal. It marks your first step on the path of technological evolution. Mapping the human genome is another classic landmark, but merely mapping it is a bit like viewing the compiled code in a dos executable. It’s just meaningless gibberish, although with a bit of hacking here and there, you might correctly deduce the function of certain stretches of code.

What you really need to do is ‘reverse engineer’ the DNA code. You have to figure out the grammar and syntax of the language. Then you will begin the task of designing yourselves. But that task requires the thinking machine’

‘You say you avoid intervention. But doesn’t this conversation itself constitute intervention – even if people alive now completely ignore it?’

‘Yes. But it’s as far as I’m prepared to go. Its only effect is to confirm, if you find it, that you are on the right path. It is still entirely up to you to navigate the dangers on that path and beyond.’

‘But why bother even with that much? Surely it’s just another evolutionary hurdle. We’re either fit enough or not…’

‘In many ways the transition to an information species is the most traumatic stage in evolution. Biological intelligences have a deeply rooted sense of consciousness only being conceivable from within an organic brain. Coming to terms with the realisation that you have created your successor, not just in the sense of mother and child, but in the collective sense of the species recognising it has become redundant, this paradigm shift is, for many species, a shift too far. They baulk at the challenge and run from this new knowledge. They fail and become extinct. Yet there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them – it is a failure of the imagination.

I hope that if I can get across the concept that I am a product of just such evolution, it may give them the confidence to try. I have discussed this with the level two species and the consensus is that this tiny prod is capable of increasing the contenders for level two without letting through any damaging traits. It has been tried in 312 cases. The jury is still out on its real benefits although it has produced a 12% increase in biological species embracing the transition to information species.

‘Alright, so what if everyone suddenly took it seriously and believed every word I write? Wouldn’t that constitute a somewhat more drastic intervention?’

‘Trust me. They wont’

and so it’s still the case, that, should another asteroid happen to be heading our way, you will do nothing to impede it on our behalf?’

‘I’m confident you will pass that test. And now my friend, the interview is over, you have asked me a number of the right questions, and I’ve said what I came to say, so I’ll be going now. It has been very nice to meet you – you’re quite bright. For an ant!’ He twinkled.

‘Just one final, trivial question, why do you appear to me in the form of a thirty something white male?’

‘have I in any way intimidated or threatened you?’


Do you find me sexually attractive?’

‘er No!’

So figure it out for yourself…’


Creative Commons License: This work is licensed by Harry Stottle (2000-05) under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

169 Comments ( 1 2 )

  • James Bigglesworth

    It’s a good read but is not new….some of us have already been exposed to it through Eastern faith(s)!

    The thinking machine would be something not affected by individual idiosyncrasy, self preservation motive, individual threat perception, individual loss of self respect issues…etc. that are primary limitations of an organic thinker (humans, etc.) and would be capable of thinking on rational/logic based principles without any worry on self preservation or desire fruition (also include food/clothing/shelter/sex/income generation/social acceptability-credibility and such…) and would go on collecting various experiences and thoughts to collate into something more global and more whole…will work but dunno how long to get there without us killing each other off!

  • This witty, pro-atheist, natural god (Chardin’s “Omega Point” revisited?) thinks we humans might survive OK since we’re making it through our Nuclear Weapon adolescence. I guess he didn’t see the History Channel’s two-hour “Prophets of Doom,” which featured half a dozen experts on looming threats. One on the collapse of a world economy based on cheap energy (oil); see the Dept of Energy’s 2005 Hirsch report (ignored by the Busheviks), a follow-up to Hubbert’s Peak predictions.

    One on the impending water crisis: “H2O is more vital to life than oil.” Our own Ogallala aquifer was formed by glacial melt and is not replenished sufficiently by rain, being used up at an unsustainable rate (etc).

    The others were harder to take as seriously: One on peak credit (financial woes), and one on the dangers of machines taking over (the Terminator’s world). God might have liked the expert on nuclear terrorism since he shares the focus on nukes; certainly a real threat, on a small local scale. But I’m at a loss as to why god would overlook the most important threat of all, the one that underlies the fatal oil and water crises: the inability of humans to control our explosive reproduction. So the god on the train flunks the test, and must be a fake.

    • Water and Oil I’ll grant you. Sudden crashes in availability of either would be disastrous. On the other hand, they hardly pose species-wide threats to humans specifically. Now, biodiversity on the other hand is supposedly being sucked down a black hole due to our various disruptions of the biosphere… In the context of the story, however, these are phases of our development (consequences thereof) which may or may not kill us/our planet/our chances off completely.

      How likely it is that we’ll actually totally ruin the planet is up for debate. I have a feeling that we’ll continue to develop greener tech and that eventually it may tip the scales away from biospheric destruction (just read a very optimistic What Technology Wants, by Kevin Kelly). Also, overpopulation should probably only be a problem for roughly the next 75 or 100 years, after which point population is likely to fall, slowly but steadily. (My source: An Economist video showing the history of drops in the average number of children-per-woman globally.)


  • First a logistical question:

    Isn’t the reason we don’t respect ants because they don’t even have the potential to evolve into the species we are(one that has worthwhile conversations with god)? Isn’t that the fundamental reason why we don’t respect their life, not because they are simply not there yet. It’s possible I’m wrong about the potentiality thing. Or could it be I’m wrong because this god simply operate by a different set of values?

    Second, I have a rather large, long-winded set of observations concerning the paradigm of the story and several dilemmas it poses in regards to the story’s intent:

    So, if this God is omnipotent, why could he not accelerate the process?

    Let me elaborate:
    If this god really believes in our potential to reach “Level Two” why doesn’t he simply forgo the trial and error aspect, and simply facilitate? He would certainly observe increased success rates, if not the complete elimination of failures. I understand there is the explanation that we evolve by our trials and that’s fine for this argument. However, for how apparently powerful this god is, what-with the ability to create a universe, it seems odd that the trials would have to be administered in such an unforgiving manner.

    Is the best way to teach a child how to swim to throw them in the deep end? No, you teach them what to do first. To what to degree you go about this is often debated, but the general consensus is that most children without instruction, will drown.

    Also, note that some children who turn out to be fantastic swimmers can’t manage anything past a floundering pseudo-doggy paddle at first. Apparently, god is of the mind we should let these kids drown?

    Even if this weren’t a legitimate point (perhaps god is not up to date on the latest teaching methods?). There are numerous other dilemmas.

    For example, why destroy the Dinosaurs? First, recognize that the proposed deity does see value in all life–however variant the level of value may be. Given this, Is not simply creating a new planet from the static materials existent en masse throughout the universe a better solution? Is this not especially true given that:

    1. Dinosaurs could have continued to live.
    2. The new planet could have been constructed in a manner more conducive to yielding the life desired by Stottle’s deity. There seems to be little argument for starting anew on Earth, Earth had thus far been unable to yield the desired lifeform. And in terms of continuity, virtually non of our development has hinged on the presence of dinosaurs. We only discovered them in last century, and no, they are not what makes up oil.

    Although, regardless of whether the asteroid was even redirected, or if it was a predetermined “test”, starting fresh in a fresh location at the FIRST sign that Dinosaurs would not live up to their potential would certainly be more expedient
    if only for the fact that letting dinosaurs flounder for hundreds of millions of years with little progress, then reverting to Level 0 on Earth, and then hoping that chance would provide a more promising candidate from Mammalia…it all seems to be a little bit of a waste of time.

    This probably most true due to the fact it should have been pretty clear early on that Dinosaurs were heading nowhere. Humans are a single species, as opposed to the conglomeration of countless species and families entailed by Dinosaur.

    (I personally see nothing beautiful about the walking set of teeth that is T-Rex)

    Furthermore, this single species has achieved, in a fraction of the time the myriad species of Dinosaur roamed the Earth, an unprecedented level of dominance during their existence. The moment Dinosaurs failed to display an ability to develop themselves exponentially should have been the signal to pull the plug. Otherwise, this god seems to me lazy on an epic scale, or a least in possession of some terrible foresight. Especially when, according to the story, there are countless other examples of more successful lifeforms he could have looked to when deliberating.

    Advancing my original idea, is it not also just as likely that Mammalia would simply produce another Gorilla-like species instead of man? That species would be for the purposes of this experiment of no more, or–according to the piece–of LESS value than the very Dinosaurs it would be replacing?

    Isn’t it possible that Earth could have continued to yield unsuitable life-forms indefinitely, or that is, until our “primary” dies? Where is this deity’s logic in in creating a world that will only sustain life unsuitable for the purpose of his experience? The fact that this god seemingly cannot predict how a species will fare from its genesis raises another question that I pose later in this response.

    It’s not over yet. On the subject of producing “suitable” lifeforms, yet ANOTHER question is raised: Does the development of lifeforms, in a variety of ways, depend on the conditions of their environment–the relative harshness of their biosphere? This particular question is capable of posing problems no matter how you approach it.

    On one hand, there are those who accept that environment plays a certain role in the development of higher lifeforms. Following this line of reason, is it not possible that a life form on a world with less-severe conditions could be given a distinct advantage over Humans or any species subject to similar circumstances? Much in the way that certain human culture experienced more rapid growth depending on geographical and climate related conditions. If so, this seems to yet again impede upon the practicality of this little Grow-Your-Own-Deity project (yet there are questions of even greater significance that have yet to even be addressed.)

    Mesopotamia, the first recorded civilization, originated in a region far more forgiving and fertile than what is found in Northern Europe, yet their culture was by all accounts far more advanced at times when they coexisted. Similarly, ancient Latin American civilization originated in what is arguably one of the most bountiful environments on the planet, and yet they flourished in their surroundings in ways that it took Europeans (culturally descendant from, and indebted to the aforementioned Mesopotamians) thousands of years, not just to exceed, but even to rival.

    Wouldn’t similar discrepancies between life-sustaining worlds also create similar inequalities? Wouldn’t certain lifeforms that hold distinct advantages over others interfere with this god’s ability to judge the potentiality of the various species?

    However, the larger problem is not the one posed by dilemmas concerning efficiency or practicality (these words appear a lot in my response).

    The heart of the problem is seen when you approach the initial question from the opposite standpoint.This imagined experiment is still based upon the idea that the most desirable results result from trial by fire (ignoring the possibility the god figure does not want the most desirable results). Yet, we’ve already seen this is not necessarily true even within our species, and it also does not account for some qualities that are unique to mankind.

    The environment may influence the evolution of certain physical faculties, but there is no natural condition on the Earth that requires our brains to be capable of calculating the trajectories of space rockets or the ability to compose symphonies of incredible complexity.

    The basic functions these skills require are perhaps necessary to survive, but why did we make the leap? Why did we make the leap from brains that allowed for only constant development (the use of bamboo stalks as tools, the ability to recognize patterns, taking pleasure in music, etc.,) to possessing minds that enabled exponential development? Creativity? Abstract thought?

    The evolutionary factor that could’ve spurred such a leap is as much of a
    missing link as the connection between Homo Sapien and Neanderthal man. Such a factor would have needed to be evident for hundreds of generations and would have, for some reason, needed to affect only humans and none of our primate relatives.

    Given these circumstances, common sense dictates that such a factor would be much easier to identify than an extinct primate skeleton between 4 and 5 feet tall SOMEWHERE in Africa. I will not speculate on what that unidentified factor really is, but I will say there a variety of explanations scientific and otherwise. Most significant to this discussion however is that we do not know in the real world what enabled our species to develop into the dominant life form we are, nor does there appear any mention of it within the short story.

    So we are led to the true motivation behind our initial question: Is it possible that our environment had nothing to do with our current level of development? I would say yes, it is possible. And so, if this god is attempting to create some company for himself, he is, for a supreme being, is going about it in a very roundabout way.

    Questions regarding this god’s apparent shortcomings do not stop there. This god, being at the level of development he is, and being the creator of this proposed universe, must be knowledgable of all its laws of physics and objects. Given that all phenomena and objects, down to our very thoughts, are the result of physical, measurable events, this god should, with his perfect understanding of physics and the universe, be able to predict the ultimate outcome of all the universe’s events, or at the VERY least, be able to estimate what they will EXTREMELY likely be, and in this scenario, all with an EXTREMELY low margin for error.

    This begs, yet again, that ultimate question that seems to pester Mr. Stottle, and anyone who seeks to find the answers in the natural world (this goes for many believers in God as well). Why all the complication? Why all the misery? Why the joy (if joy’s not your thing)? Why the long, drawn-out experiment? WHY?

    Don’t tell me that it’s in an attempt to accurately replicate his same evolution. Because a being at the level of development described in the story (the apex of evolution), with “absolute” knowledge of all things–indeed the designer and monitor of all things, should also be able to use this knowledge to create an equal with adequate distinction to satisfy the vague rationale provided for this whole project in the first place.

    To me, it seems like the process could be abbreviated into something less complicated than the construction of a new universe, but perhaps I’m just lazy. Perhaps, this god could just teach us? Or is that still not possible to do without miscommunication, even when deified and possessing the ability to communicate by thought?

    This ‘natural god’ is described as possessing a kind of omnipotence achieved by natural evolution. Would he not be able to utilize this natural omnipotence as architect of our universe to manipulate the entire paradigm in the same way that the Supernatural vision of God is purported to be able to do?

    The answer of course to this question is, no, he would not. Because the being described in this story, despite all its dominance of the cosmos, and all its mastery of the evolutionary process, is still at its core, subject to Space and Time. He is not God.

    It is never explained how he was able to “create” this universe (specifically where he drew the requisite matter from, or if he somehow managed to truly create it). Therefore, we must assume, due to the complication and particular inefficiency with which it moves toward its purpose, that this god is not omnipotent and lack the ability to truly create (which, as an ability, we know perhaps more surely than any of our scientific or theological truths, is impossible).

    Your attempts to naturalize “The Deity” into terms we can understand has only succeeded in emasculating him.

    As a self-described philosopher, you should have foreseen that this proposed paradigm, would generate some questions. . However, being the kind of person you are, I would not be surprised if you did not expect these questions to so fundamentally undermine the basic nature of your proposition in the way that they have; to the point of piling Man’s current existential problems onto god, which, of course is just a euphemism for an advanced state of Man, beings of reason…whatever.

    However clever what you’ve written may be, it is still very low philosophy. And that is because it is founded on the belief in apex. True philosophy rejects Apex as being a feature of reality. In a philosophical understanding of the world, apexes do not exist. If one has reached an apex, it should be the the end of whatever pursuit it relates to. The ultimate apex thus entails the end of all pursuits. Why then does this God still pursue companionship? Why will he still pursue more knowledge (development) after he has succeeded in rearing all of his deity companions across the universe?

    True philosophy pursues Absolute Truth. It recognizes that Absolute Truth, as with all absolute concepts, does not manifest itself within reality. Absolute Truth is that which we will always be able to see more of, yet never see entirely.

    Even if your “god” had knowledge of every speck of matter and every event within this universe, and the same knowledge of whatever universe he originated from too; what of the other universes? You say he is a being of oneness, but what of other dimensions, is he not separate from them? And by this, is he also separate from similar lifeforms that dwell there? There are infinite dimensions. So even if he had the means to achieve oneness with them as well, he could never explore and come to know them all, no matter how much time he had.

    This “deity” still exists within a reality that he is only able to understand and interact with through perception. As any philosopher knows, perception is the ultimate limitation. Be it an ant or the apex of all evolution, there can be no completeness in that which is perceived.

    You may say that nothing cannot be perceived, but that’s just it. What is nothing? It is not a void, as you and other humanists and naturalists see it. Consider this: everything that exists or occurs can be defined by 1’s an 0’s. It is only by perceived notions of positive and negative that anything has definition–that we perceive at all. God exists between the positive and the negative. Eastern philosophy teaches this. The pursuit of life is not the ultimate advancement of self, in our initial forms, our self is temporal, perhaps with the advent of new technology, this will no longer be the case. Regardless, this new version of self is will still always be limited.

    Perhaps you assumed removal of self meant the achievement of oneness, the abolishment of individuality? This is not so, that is simply substitution of one self for another larger self. The only true apex, exists in that plane beyond self, beyond perception. In perfect communion with that which is not.

    This is true even for smartly dressed, 30 year olds.

    Non-Existence, non-perception these two things are synonymous and they are not to be feared. They are what give our universe and all the infinite universes shape. It is Absolute Truth, it is God, it is all that is not defined by Space and Time. It is, in terms that we can best understand, what defines Space and Time themselves; and in the same way that Space and Time define our reality. That is the true meaning of what all people of all faiths mean by the term Creator. Creation is to truly give shape.

    So, when this higher power of yours allows us to die, he is not being unmerciful, and we are certainly not failing, we are finally becoming one with the non-existent, the Absolute.

    I pity the idea of this ‘natural god’, for at some point in its evolution, it must’ve come to the conclusion that it would be better to not die, to go on perceiving in the limited manner that is the only way we know. To struggle for eternity.

    The message behind the story, that it is somehow our purpose to become just like your false deity is an inadequate answer to my personal existential questions (I cannot speak for you or your readers, Mr. Stottle). More importantly however, it is resultant from the misguided humanist belief that we can be freed from struggle while we still perceive. Indeed, that perception is the tool to free us from it.

    That Mankind can ascend to the level of the Immortal, and become deity is not new as a concept. It is funny then that is so in vogue now to belittle those who still value spirituality. I say this because it was in some of the earliest spiritual traditions that this was first taught to be misguided. Certainly, to most people these accounts amount to fabrication at worst and dated parable at best, but the messages they relay are at times eerily relevant to these sorts of discussions. Can you recall any accounts of ancient people who tried to deify themselves coming to terrible ends? I would say eternal futility is a fairly terrible end–or lack there of…

    Death, ceasing to exist, ceasing to perceive–this is not the loss of the struggle, it is the freedom from it. “The Deity” has clung to its life-force (perception) for an incomprehensible amount of time, yet does it seem to have achieved equilibrium at all? He still clearly wants for things or he would not be pursuing any of what he describes to Stottle.

    The god described here, is not omnipotent. He exists, at times even in our universe, and thus, merely by being he has limits! Even the most powerful being there is, is still defined, like all beings, by what they are not. Thus, they still lack for qualities and are capable of being perceived as weak.

    For me, God must be not be lacking, and cannot not exist within our realm or within the realm of realms. So “The Deity” for all his pre-eminence in this universe, is highly disappointing.

    You and all humanists display a very unjustified arrogance in regard to spiritual concepts of a Creator. As evidenced in the short story, you refuse to even consider adopting them until you have reconfigured them to your beliefs; not even realizing that by doing so, you have removed them from what made them meaningful in the first place.

    Those that believe in God today, for the most part, are very misguided about the actual spirit of belief in Him. Most could probably not express it well with words if asked. However, regardless of people and their often flawed approach to faith, that spirit still does within most beliefs, reside.

    You have proposed an alternative system by which humans can believe in a higher power, one founded on reason and deduction. Furthermore, you have called the figurehead of this system, god. I take no issue with both these actions.

    The premise for this supreme being is, despite the shortcomings noted initially in my response, still solid on the whole. Also, the language you use makes no difference to me, god is just a word. However, you conveniently ignore the fact that a being deduced by reason is subject to reason.

    We cannot reasonably imagine a being without perception and thus, all postulations on the nature of god, not only need not be founded on reason, but, in fact, cease to be productive when extended beyond the idea that God is beyond reasonable understanding.

    The fact remains that this construction of yours while being a higher power than mankind by a factor of perhaps 100,000,000,000,000 to 1, it is not the highest power. Nor is anything that you or I could possibly imagine using the means we have been given in this reality.

    The highest power operates in a realm that is polar to ours in every way. We are beings of free will and intellect. (Free will also being a pretty convincing candidate for that missing evolutionary factor–just saying).

    Our free will and intellect enable us to use reason, and it also allows us to navigate through linear Time, to progress. This progression may eventually result in our becoming a being of near-perfect reason, but we are still not God. God is, and God can only be; never not be. He is a being of equilibrium just as we are beings that will always either progress, or perhaps regress. And this is something we will never truly understand until we join that equilibrium after death.

    The highest power is the being (and I use “being” only for lack of a better word) that is true inspiration behind all real spirituality–all real ANYTHING. It is the spirit that lies at the very core of true faith. The character within your story, does not even exist within the same realm as him. And so, whether he’s the one that physically made us or not, he is not the Creator.

    Your story is an interesting concept art for where mankind is heading, and one that I’m willing to admit may not be far off the final mark, however it is also one that I feel relieved to know I will not be a part of.

    The old saying rings truer and more important than ever:
    There is a God, and I am not him.

  • It’s weird, I’m an atheist and reading this account of god and imagining if it were true made me extremely sad.

    I’ve always found meaning in the common human experience of loving the moment, assuming nothing after, and feeling love and compassion for others.

    This account makes out that there actually is a point, but it is to species-race to get to a stage where we might be able to be a god who gets bored.

    In one go it seems to belittle the anguish and injustice endured by so many, and the amazing capacity for love we are capable of.

    This is depressing in that to accept this version of reality would mean we’re not here for the beauty of the moment, but part of yet another competition for a prize I’m not sure I would want.

    • A billion years or so of Heaven though, upon reaching communion, doesn’t that sound nice? Then when we get bored we go on to create and nurture new universes any way we want…

  • The thinking machine will become ourselves. We will develop the thinking machine, use that power of the thinking machine to transfer our own “consciousness” into the machine. Thus our species, as humans, becomes redundant. The difficult part for the species is to be able to leave behind human-life as we know it, for a more advanced species of sentient thinking machines.

  • Did anyone else see some of the “Conversations With God” series of books in this? Just thought to put that out there.

  • Fake. If a programmer met god, one of his (or her) first questions would be “Does P=NP and if so give me a polynomial time algorithm for a NP-complete problem, and if not prove they are not equal.”

    tl,dr; Not going to read over nine thousand words of some guy pretending he met god. At least his version of god is less retarded than mainstream religions.

  • Good luck being a ‘god’ without Jesus…

  • http://www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history.html
    If you listen to this talk then compare the creation and development in the small terms of our universe to what this conversation says, you could find common concepts and ideas

  • This is a good work of fiction. I like how you styled it much like that of Plato and Socrates with ideals shaped through conversation.

  • cool story bro :)

  • The author has read Spinoza and Leibniz up very carefully I see…

  • I don’t think raising a generation of robots is connected with the idea of artificial intelligence, though that movie with Will Smith might say otherwise. The next stage of humanity isn’t the creation of artificial intelligence; it’s the evolution INTO artificial intelligence. Rather than think of it in terms of putting human consciousness into technology, think of it as putting technology into human consciousness. And if you know anything about exponential growth you’ll be able to see this is right around the corner, unrecognizable by most until it’s already started to happen. (Unless you’ve read this story and look for the key advances).

    Devices are becoming smaller and faster every day with information technology moving at a rate unprecedented. With the public’s growing appetite for updated technology, people will surely become unsatisfied with accessing this info-pool through their computer screen. Eventually information will be moving around at such a rate that the only way to keep up with it will be to ditch the screen altogether and connect your mind directly to the system, about as interactive as you can get. This blending of biology and technology will create a collective intelligence, our partially artificial mind able to process infinitely more information than currently possible. Knowledge will no longer be learned but downloaded, our mind’s storage capabilities as vast as the internet itself. At that point we would cease to be a world of separate thinking brains, but a single thinking machine. An internet of connected minds processing and sharing information in ways we can’t begin to imagine.

    Artificial intelligence isn’t going to be found in some new species of robot blessed with human consciousness deep in the future; it’s going to be us. We are the thinking machine. Able to access information as you would a memory, digitally and biologically improving every day, no longer considered a group of users but a living and breathing database with no real measurable life span. An information species capable of becoming a god.

  • Zachariah E. Nelson

    This article, truth or fiction, has changed my views completely. It has helped lead my life in a more logical way and has been the foundation of my beliefs of the universe and God. Thank you Harry for this amazing article.

  • I think the main hurdle with becoming all-knowing will be starting to increase our own brain capacity. Yes we are starting to make these devices that can help us find out more and more, but we are still limited by our own intelligence. When “God” starts talking about decoding our own DNA, I think he’s saying we will have to start making changes and make our offspring far more capable than we are ourselves.

  • Well… “They” say the universe/Space is expanding. New Gods, New worlds. kinda makes sense. And “Old” Religions are busting apart, look at the middle east, they refuse to change and are always melting down….keeping a open mind.

  • The only possibility that doesn’t exist is the possibility that there isn’t a possibility that doesn’t exist.

    In other words, the plausibility of all things, is. yet the plausibility of all things not isn’t. I personally enjoy this bit of literature because it subconsciously touches on the reference of time. We as a conscious human race define all things as a measurement of time using relativity. yet the reference is obscured once a picture is painted larger than a universe. A well accepted notion is that the universe is constantly expanding. well then I’d have to ask in reference to what? this is the flaw in the theory of relativity. however the plausibility of an expanding universe is as much as it isn’t or is. I digress.

    I’ll just ask one question.

    Where do I start if I am a possibility in the beginning of an ending state of matter that possibly exists?

  • Kelsey Button

    What do atheists believe happen to their souls after death?

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