Let me tell you a short story about the invisible Gardner. The story starts with two explorers who come upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.” The other disagrees, “There is no gardener.” So, they pitch their tents and patiently wait for the appearance of the gardener. No gardener is ever seen. “But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.” So, they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it.
They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still, the Believer is not convinced. “But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves. At last, the Skeptic despairs, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all? (Wisdom, 1936)
Can you guess who the two explores are talking about?
This was a thought experiment that was conducted by the English Philosopher John Wisdom in 1944. The thought experiment was supposed to test the limits of faith vs scientific evidence. In philosophy, this is known as Theology, which is the study of Gods existence under the predicate that he already exists versus the philosophical study of religion which assumes God does not exist and its main goal is to prove his existence through evidence and deductive reasoning. Philosophers believe nothing is a given, that everything is on the table and everything needs an argument. Obviously, theologists believe religion does not need any evidence to prove the existence of God and that all that is needed is faith. This is an interesting point of view because Faith is definitionally unprovable, which makes it from a philosophical perspective, not valuable. Hence why the argument has been going back and forth for millennia. It is not easy to come up with an argument for the existence of God, but Anselm of Canterbury came up with a deductive argument using what he called the nature of knowing Gods being or as it was later called the ontological argument. Anselm believed that God is by definition the best possible thing we can imagine. In his words, “God is that than which no greater can be conceived.”
Here is his argument laid out as a philosophical argument;
God is the greatest thing we can think of. Things can exist only in our imagination, or they can also exist in reality. Things that exist in reality are always better than things that exist only in our imaginations. If God existed only in our imaginations, he wouldn’t be the greatest thing that we can think of, because God, in reality, would be better. Therefore, God must exist in reality.
A lot has been debated about his argument and it is still a hot topic in philosophy today thousands of years after it was written. But the main thing I want you to ponder as the reader is the actual impact that religion has had on the world. It can be argued no other force has had such an impact on how we live our lives, how our societies have been constructed and how we see and treat each other. Take for example the religious disputes happening in Pakistan and Indian, the Muslims vs the Hindus respectively. Religion has its foothold in the world and its global economic impacts can be felt on a daily basis. Although Philosophy doesn’t give us the answers it does get us to talk about these issues and allows us to freely ask questions. The question you should be asking yourself is what role do you play in this age-old argument and are you achieving what you think you are supposed to do, if so how are you doing this and are you taking the time to LISTEN(not hear them but listen) to the other sides perspective?
Wisdom, J. (1936). Philosophical Perplexity.