Why I'm Agnostic #1: Perfection

26th Jun 2016

Perfect. Is there such a thing? Quite often the idea of perfection is used in literature and religion but especially in religion to explain God and to justify other actions that even humans perform. I rather consider such idea a human construction that doesn't really occur in real life.

One of the topics in which Christians base their beliefs in order to proclaim that God does exist is the idea of perfection. It's stated both in the New and Old Testaments several times. At the end of Matthew 5 for example we found the words of Jesus:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (KJV)

And in Genesis 1 the author wrote:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (KJV)

So assuming that God is indeed perfect if we read this then humans are perfect as well. Of course, some Christians believe in the inerrancy of the Bible whereas others don't believe in the literary interpretation of the whole text of the Bible. However, if we do believe that God is the creator and that humans are the image of God we're assuming that humans are perfect at least in the aesthetic aspect.

It's very hard to guess what he meant by saying this and I often attribute these things to their understanding lack of knowledge, their lack of philosophy knowledge and their lack of scientific knowledge to be more specific. Still the idea of perfection is older than that and it's been pursued by humans from the very beginning of our existence.

Unlike other animals, humans reached a point in history where they had to improve and use tools to survive and methods in which to use these tools to gather food or protect themselves. Surviving is not a problem that has one solution, rather you can lay out several ways to solve a problem like killing an animal to eat it or find shelter. The key of all these problems is that every method or every tool can be improved. Other animals can't do that or can do that at a very small pace because their brains are less developed of course. Therefore it's easy to infere that from the very beginning of humanity we've assumed that since we can improve and that we are the most intelligent animals on Earth we are born perfect. The fact that solutions can be improved may lead to also assume that perfection is attainable.

Something that's been great about studying computing engineering is the fact that some aspects of software development and management can be applied to other fields. While studying a subject related to quality assurance I found the example of Walter Shewhart who discovered the statistical quality control and he was the one who designed a cycle of quality improvement that can be applied to any industrial process. So among other things he found that processes can always be improved so we should always study the results of a process and take measures to improve it. Sources of imperfection can be many: Resource inefficiencies, customers unsatisfied, lack of added value, straight bad products, etc.

I was thinking about the Shewhart process when I thought about the problem of perfection and I came up with this conclusion: There's nothing perfect within the human creation. There's always someone who doesn't like Coke, someone who wants to do something else with his or her smartphone, a poem that could've been written a little bit better to express that feeling in a more fluent way. Besides, things wear off and fall apart.

This is not that bad though because it drives us to do more and do things differently as well as giving us more hours to pass with tasks.

Anyway, nature is not perfect either. Animals die everyday from mutations that don't let them stand on their feet properly or fly. When animals are alive they suffer illnesses. We still have an appendix and lots of illnesses both physical and mental. Natural disasters occur from time to time and if you live afraid of vulcanoes, earthquakes or tornadoes you know where I'm going. There's an interesting thing I realized: We all or most of us have or will have an offspring and we are the offspring of another generation. Well, we are not the same than they are, even in a biological way. We are basically mutations of what our ancestors were that they couldn't control. Mutations lead to problems or improvements but they make us the way we are. Also if I want to be healthy I have to take some actions such as going to the doctor or doing some sports. I cannot be healthy and reach my potential just by being myself.

Thus when I think of perfection I can't really find it except despite of abstract representations of the idea of something perfect. Art and beauty explore the limits of the human being in terms of perfection. I really believe that we are closer to a state of perfection in aesthetics but it's partly because we are the ones who set the standard of perfection for that matter. For the most part perfection and the powerful attributes of the hebraic God to be far-fetched or created ad-hoc to the point that the idea of a person most powerful than anyone else, ubiquitous and omniscient is logically flawed on itself.

Perfection is just an ideal that can't be reached but it's useful to have. Utopias are a good example of this and so vision statements for companies. The idea of a God with such features while I can't refute God is hard to believe. Perfection is a concept that requires a comparison or a standard and that doesn't make sense when you're a God all alone. Even with humans on Earth perfection can't really be seen. If perfection doesn't exist can there be a God person as in Christianity?