Foreword to The Big Picture

Scientific discovery has brought material benefits and physical comfort to mankind.  The predictability of matter leads us to assume that it behaves according to fixed laws, and this belief has led engineers to develop tools and machinery to manipulate the environment, doctors to develop cures for many diseases, and farmers to grow crops with greatly increased yields.  Many of the scourges of previous times have been overcome leading, in the Western world at least, to longer lifetimes and better health.  However, this has also led to the belief that everything is predictable and controllable. If anything goes wrong (by which we mean it causes us distress or discomfort) then it must be fixable, and if it hasn’t been fixed it must be someone else’s fault.

Personal rights have grown, but personal responsibility has diminished.  Laws to protect the weak have bred the belief that it is the state’s job and not our individual duty to help out those less fortunate than ourselves.  Mechanisation that was supposed to give more leisure time has led to lost jobs and loss of purpose.  Competition and the shrinking of the geographical world has meant that there is someone, somewhere who will work harder or longer hours than we do, and the pressure grows to produce more for less.  The availability of loans means that goods can be obtained now if we promise to pay later.  To pay the loan we need a job.  Fear of job loss drives us to work longer hours and accept less pay. The purpose of life becomes to produce.  The mechanism which fuels demand and production is the economy.  The economy becomes the measure of the health of a nation.

Is that what it’s all about?

Is my value simply what I can produce?

Am I measured just by what I can earn?

If I retain the worldview that the economy is king then the implication is yes, but that doesn’t feel right.  I want to be valued and loved as a person.  I want a worldview that speaks to my heart and my mind and not just my wallet, and I want it to be based on sound thinking and evidence.

Science has brought great technological and medical benefits to mankind; cars, televisions, fridges, telephones, electricity and so on.  But science has also brought guns and bullets, pollution, global drug trafficking and job losses.  Science seems to dominate my life, telling me what I should or shouldn’t do to keep healthy, avoid risk and live longer, but it doesn’t tell me why I would want to live longer.  Science doesn’t give any purpose to my life.

Religion offers purpose, but it too seems to want to control me and dominate me.  Religion has been used as justification for many great atrocities: the Spanish Inquisition, child sacrifices, the Crusades.  Religious people seem to want to tell me how to behave, and to judge and criticise me, claiming to represent the will of God.

I want to know the truth.  I want to know what science can tell me about how the universe works, and perhaps where I came from.  I want the benefits that science can bring, but not at the cost of becoming a slave to its dictates.  I want to know why I am here, what my purpose in life is, or even if there is one.  If there is a God I want to know what He thinks. I want the benefit of knowing that I have a purpose, but not at the cost of becoming a slave to rules from another human being.

And so I investigate, weigh up evidence in all forms and seek a holistic worldview that works.  I have explored what we know from the physical and biological sciences, and I have researched historical evidence for God. I have tested what is actually known, and what is speculation, extrapolation or personal opinion and rhetoric.

This book presents my conclusions, and some of the evidence that brought me to draw them.  I offer what I believe is a consistent, healthy and constructive worldview based on sound evidence.  I’ve called it Minimalist Christianity.  Whether you agree with my conclusion or not, I hope that many of the myths that currently inhibit so many of us will have been weakened or dispelled.  I hope that a step can be taken towards finding purpose and experiencing life in abundance.

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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