A sermon on Sunday

davies.jpgThis SMH article by Australian physicist/philosopher Paul Davies was published about 3 weeks ago. I intended to blog about it then but didn’t get around to it. It deals with the fascinating subject of the possibility of multiple parallel universes (or multiverses), which I assume emerges from the mind-blowingly complex M Theory, which I gather is an even more refined version of String Theory. Both theories are apparently extremely mathematically elegant and potentially viable “theories of everything”, but currently scientifically unverifiable unfalsifiable. (Science can never “verify” an idea as such, it can only test propositions and treat them as true if not yet proven false. The longer a proposition subsists, the more tests it survives, and the more things it therefore appears to explain, the more likely it is to be true).

Even more fascinatingly, Davies’ article reports recent speculation by physicists about the possibility of multiple (perhaps even an infinite number of) Matrix-style simulated universes created by almost unimaginably superior intelligent beings from somewhere else:

The one they have come up with is multiple universes, or “the multiverse”. This theory says that what we have been calling “the universe” is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is an infinitesimal fragment of a much grander and more elaborate system in which our cosmic region, vast though it is, represents but a single bubble of space amid a countless number of other bubbles, or pocket universes. …

It’s a pretty neat idea, and very popular with scientists. But it carries a bizarre implication. Because the total number of pocket universes is unlimited, there are bound to be at least some that are not only inhabited, but populated by advanced civilisations – technological communities with enough computer power to create artificial consciousness. Indeed, some computer scientists think our technology may be on the verge of achieving thinking machines.

It is but a small step from creating artificial minds in a machine, to simulating entire virtual worlds for the simulated beings to inhabit. This scenario has become familiar since it was popularised in The Matrix movies.

Now some scientists are suggesting it should be taken seriously. “We may be a simulation … creations of some supreme, or super-being,” muses Britain’s astronomer royal, Sir Martin Rees, a staunch advocate of the multiverse theory. He wonders whether the entire physical universe might be an exercise in virtual reality, so that “we’re in the matrix rather than the physics itself“.

Is there any justification for believing this wacky idea? You bet, says Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, who even has a website devoted to the topic. “Because their computers are so powerful, they could run a great many simulations,” he writes in The Philosophical Quarterly.

So if there exist civilisations with cosmic simulating ability, then the fake universes they create would rapidly proliferate to outnumber the real ones. After all, virtual reality is a lot cheaper than the real thing. So by simple statistics, a random observer like you or me is most probably a simulated being in a fake world. And viewed from inside the matrix, we could never tell the difference.

However, Davies seems to ignore the origin of these speculations in perfectly respectable M Theory, and instead argues that they’ve been generated by determinedly atheistic physicists and philosophers to counter speculations by other physicists (including Davies himself and the late Fred Hoyle) that the universe appears to have been intelligently designed (i.e. that there’s a God of some sort):

The late British astronomer Fred Hoyle was so struck by the coincidence that the nuclear force possessed just the right strength to make beings like Fred Hoyle, he proclaimed the universe to be “a put-up job”. Since this sounds a bit too much like divine providence, cosmologists have been scrambling to find a scientific answer to the conundrum of cosmic bio-friendliness.

Now, the “argument from design” (or teleological argument) has been around for an awfully long time as an attempted proof of the existence of God. It goes back at least to philosopher David Hume. However, in most respects it’s been fairly comprehensively debunked. There’s even a web page with links to large numbers of academic and other articles devoted to demolishing the “argument from design”. The late Stephen Jay Gould loved rabbitting on in his books about how the astonishing diversity and complexity of life on earth proved nothing about the existence of God, because it could be fully explained by Darwinian natural selection given the vast amounts of time the earth has existed. The application of Occam’s Razor then requires us to discount God.

Some people have argued that you can find God in the Big Bang that apparently created our universe. What pre-existed the Big Bang and who or what made it happen? However, even Davies himself (in his excellent Templeton Prize Address) accepts that you can’t find God in the Big Bang:

Many people want to find God in the creation of the universe, in the big bang that started it all off. They imagine a Superbeing who deliberates for all eternity, then presses a metaphysical button and produces a huge explosion. I believe this image is entirely misconceived. Einstein showed us that space and time are part of the physical universe, not a pre-existing arena in which the universe happens. Cosmologists are convinced that the big bang was the coming-into-being, not just of matter and energy, but of space and time as well. Time itself began with the big bang. If this sounds baffling, it is by no means new. Already in the fifth century St. Augustine proclaimed that “the world was made with time, not in time.” According to James Hartle and Stephen Hawking, this coming-into-being of the universe need not be a supernatural process, but could occur entirely naturally, in accordance with the laws of quantum physics, which permit the occurrence of genuinely spontaneous events.

Davies’ “argument from design” instead relies on the remarkable complexity and contingency of the detailed laws of physics that allowed the universe to develop and become progressively more organised and complex after the initial Big Bang:

The origin of the universe, however, is hardly the end of the story. The evidence suggests that in its primordial phase the universe was in a highly simple, almost featureless state: perhaps a uniform soup of subatomic particles, or even just expanding empty space. All the richness and diversity of matter and energy we observe today has emerged since the beginning in a long and complicated sequence of self- organizing physical processes. The laws of physics not only permit a universe to originate spontaneously, but they encourage it to organize and complexify itself to the point where conscious beings emerge who can look back on the great cosmic drama and reflect on what it all means.

Now you may think I have written God entirely out of the picture. Who needs a God when the laws of physics can do such a splendid job? But we are bound to return to that burning question: Where do the laws of physics come from? And why those laws rather than some other set? Most especially: Why a set of laws that drives the searing, featureless gases coughed out of the big bang toward life and consciousness and intelligence and cultural activities such as religion, art, mathematics, and science?

If there is a meaning or purpose to existence, as I believe there is, we are wrong to dwell too much on the originating event. The big bang is sometimes referred to as “the creation,” but in truth nature has never ceased to be creative. This ongoing creativity, which manifests itself in the spontaneous emergence of novelty and complexity, and organization of physical systems, is permitted through, or guided by, the underlying mathematical laws that scientists are so busy discovering. …

You might be tempted to suppose that any old rag-bag of laws would produce a complex universe of some sort, with attendant inhabitants convinced of their own specialness. Not so. It turns out that randomly selected laws lead almost inevitably either to unrelieved chaos or boring and uneventful simplicity. Our own universe is poised exquisitely between these unpalatable alternatives, offering a potent mix of freedom and discipline, a sort of restrained creativity. The laws do not tie down physical systems so rigidly that they can accomplish little, but neither are they a recipe for cosmic anarchy. Instead, they encourage matter and energy to develop along pathways of evolution that lead to novel variety-what Freeman Dyson has called the principle of maximum diversity: that in some sense we live in the most interesting possible universe.

Scientists have recently identified a regime dubbed “the edge of chaos,” a description that certainly characterizes living organisms, where innovation and novelty combine with coherence and cooperation. The edge of chaos seems to imply the sort of lawful freedom I have just described. Mathematical studies suggest that to engineer such a state of affairs requires laws of a very special form. If we could twiddle a knob and change the existing laws, even very slightly, the chances are that the universe as we know it would fall apart, descending into chaos. Certainly the existence of life as we know it, and even of less elaborate systems such as stable stars, would be threatened by just the tiniest change in the strengths of the fundamental forces. The laws that characterize our actual universe, as opposed to an infinite number of alternative possible universes, seem almost contrived-fine-tuned, some commentators have claimed-so that life and consciousness may emerge. To quote Dyson again: it is almost as if “the universe knew we were coming.” I cannot prove to you that this is design, but whatever it is it is certainly very clever.

So you see, this is where the multiverse and Matrix-simulation theories are introduced to negate any suggestion of God/intelligent design, as Davies explains:

The vast majority of these other universes will not have the necessary fine-tuned coincidences needed for life to emerge; they are sterile and so go unseen. Only in Goldilocks universes like ours where things have fallen out just right, purely by accident, will sentient beings arise to be amazed at how ingeniously bio-friendly their universe is.

If there are lots and lots of parallel universes, then the fact that our particular one is so astonishingly “bio-friendly” is a mere coincidence and says nothing about the existence of God. The fact that we perceive a “bio-friendly” universe would be tritely true by definition: only in that sort of universe could we have arisen, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of other universes where we couldn’t and didn’t!

Moreover, you don’t even necessarily need to posit mutiple universes to establish that Davies’ ideas, fascinating though they are, don’t positively prove the existence of God. As Victor J. Stenger argues:

Every shuffle of a deck of cards leads to a 52-card sequence that has low a priori probability, but has unit probability once the cards are all on the table. Similarly, the “fine-tuning” of the constants of physics, said to be so unlikely, could very well have been random; we just happen to be in the universe that turned up in that particular deal of the cards.

Note that my thesis does not require more than one universe to exist, although some cosmological theories propose this. Even if ours is the only universe, and that universe happened by chance, we have no basis to conclude that a universe without some form of life was so unlikely as to have required a miracle.

But I can’t help thinking that Occam’s Razor starts to operate in favour of the existence of a God if the only way you can debunk him is with multiverses, Matrix-style simulations or even arguments like that of Stenger. It could be just chance, but …

Davies even points out in another article that the Matrix-style simulation multiverse speculations are just another (and in many ways quite primitive) version of theism anyway:

But the denizens of a simulated virtual world stand in the same ontological relationship to the intelligent system that designed and created their world as human beings stand in relation to the traditional designer/creator Deity (a fact not lost on science fiction writers from Olaf Stapledon onwards). The creator of the virtual worlds is a transcendent designer with the power to create or destroy simulated universes at will, alter the circumstances within them, devise laws, perform miracles, etc. Taken to its logical extreme, then, the multiverse explanation is a convincing argument for the existence of (a rather old-fashioned form of) God! This is certainly ironical, since it was partly to do away with such a God that the multiverse was originally invoked.

I conclude that the multiverse is ontologically equivalent to na¯ve deism. Of course, many people would regard my argument as a reductio ad absurdum of the multiverse concept, rather than as a justification of deism or theism, with God now in the guise, not of a Grand Architect, but of a Grand Software Engineer. My point is that to follow the multiverse theory to its logical extreme means effectively abandoning the notion of a rationally-ordered real world altogether in favour of a infinitely complex charade, where the very notion of ‘explanation’ is meaningless.

Ultimately, I suspect that we will always be unable to prove or disprove the existence of God (however defined). I have to confess I’ve always been personally inclined towards belief. Moreover, although my heritage is Christian and Catholic (and I even still go to Mass occasionally despite being alienated by many of the teachings of the current Pope, not to mention the Church’s chronic failure to act decisively against pedophile priests), I’m quite attracted by Davies’ version of God rather than (at least the more naive versions of) the christian God. For a start, it doesn’t require us to suspend rationality and believe in a God who created a phenomenally complex and lawful natural order, and now proceeds to meddle in it capriciously but infrequently, sometimes merely to perform cheap party tricks like walking on water or conjuring a seafood meal for big mobs of people:

So where is God in this story? Not especially in the big bang that starts the universe off, nor meddling fitfully in the physical processes that generate life and consciousness. I would rather that nature can take care of itself. The idea of a God who is just another force or agency at work in nature, moving atoms here and there in competition with physical forces, is profoundly uninspiring. To me, the true miracle of nature is to be found in the ingenious and unswerving lawfulness of the cosmos, a lawfulness that permits complex order to emerge from chaos, life to emerge from inanimate matter, and consciousness to emerge from life, without the need for the occasional supernatural prod; a lawfulness that produces beings who not only ask great questions of existence, but who, through science and other methods of enquiry, are even beginning to find answers.

Believing in a non-interventionist God (as I think I do) who intended us to live and make our own way in perpetual contingent hazard coincides far more readily with actual experience. It also solves the Problem of Evil: why would a benevolent God who intervenes to perform unnatural miracles fail to do so to save the innocent from slaughter? (Incidentally, one might ask a similar question at the moment of the US and UN in relation to the Darfur region of Sudan). I suppose it could be to punish the sons for the sins of their fathers, but I really can’t imagine how anyone could believe in, let alone worship, a vindictive bastard God like that, even if he does move in mysterious ways beyond our comprehension.

There is a certain elegance and beauty about Davies’ scientific/theological speculations:

Where do we human beings fit into this great cosmic scheme? Can we gaze out into the cosmos, as did our remote ancestors, and declare: “God made all this for us”? I think not. Are we then but an accident of nature, the freakish outcome of blind and purposeless forces, incidental by- product of a mindless, mechanistic universe? I reject that, too. The emergence of life and consciousness, I maintain, are written into the laws of the universe in a very basic way. True, the actual physical form and general mental make-up of Homo sapiens contain many accidental features of no particular significance. If the universe were rerun a second time, there would be no solar system, no Earth, and no people. But the emergence of life and consciousness somewhere and somewhen in the cosmos is, I believe, assured by the underlying laws of nature. The origin of life and consciousness were not interventionist miracles, but nor were they stupendously improbable accidents. They were, I believe, part of the natural outworking of the laws of nature, and as such our existence as conscious enquiring beings springs ultimately from the bedrock of physical existence-those ingenious, felicitous laws. That is the sense in which I wrote in The Mind of God: “We are truly meant to be here.” I mean “we” in the sense of conscious beings, not Homo sapiens specifically. Thus although we are not at the center of the universe, human existence does have a powerful wider significance. Whatever the universe as a whole may be about, the scientific evidence suggests that we, in some limited yet ultimately still profound way, are an integral part of its purpose.

But it seems to me that it goes rather further than passively marvelling about the fact that “we are truly meant to be here.” If “God” isn’t going to intervene in the world to save us from the hazard of operation of the lawful natural order “He” created, and if individual egoistic consciousness doesn’t survive death (which Davies at least implies), then we have no choice but to behave in precisely the same way as atheistic rational humanism advocates. This world is all there is for us humans. In that situation, Davies’ argument that “God” set up a universal system whose laws favour elaboration, complexity and elegance in diversity impels us in the direction of constructive co-operative endeavour; playful competition; democratic tolerance and “civility”; giving thanks for this endlessly astonishing world in which we live; doing everything we can to preserve and respect it; and pursuing happiness on this earth and not in some paradise after death. Those values and aspirations are “God’s” plan, not the Jihadic slaughter of infidels or any other form of fundamentalist narrow-minded religious nonsense.

Here endeth the Sunday sermon, brethren.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

“But I can’t help thinking that Occam’s Razor starts to operate in favour of the existence of a God if the only way you can debunk him is with multiverses, Matrix-style simulations or even arguments like that of Stengler. It could be just chance”

Well, not necessarily. The Matrix argument is no better than the God argument because it presupposes intelligence but the Multiverse argument doesn’t. Now if you interpret Occam’s Razor literally, then you could argue the God argument is more elegant because it only requires one entity as opposed to a culling of many universes to attain ours.

However the natural selection model of universes allows for the existence of these finely tuned laws over time without any sentient designing force whereas the God model does – the multiverses model *doesn’t* require postulating the existence of any additional entities or additional physical laws than what we already know – it just outlines, like the natural selection model in biology, a process through which the appearance of design could have evolved, whereas ultimately the God model does require postulating the existence of this additional magical entity of a preexisting sentient being whose origins itself cannot be explained.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Believing in a non-interventionist God (as I think I do) who intended us to live and make our own way in perpetual contingent hazard coincides far more readily with actual experience. It also solves the Problem of Evil: why would a God who intervenes to perform unnatural miracles fail to do so to save the innocent from slaughter? (Incidentally, one might ask a similar question at the moment of the US and UN in relation to the Darfur region of Sudan)

What a terrifying thought!

Maybe we’re just part of a universe overseen by the celestial equivalent of the ubercommittee in NY. The United Heavens, perhaps.

No wonder there’s so many black holes, galaxies colliding into one another and runaway quasars miring the peace.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Jason

Perhaps, but I’m not aware of any cosmological equivalent to Darwin’s natural selection mechanism: chance mutations prevailing because they’re favoured by environment. As far as I can see, multiple universes would all still continue to exist side by side, with none necessarily prevailing and eliminating the others, because the existence of life doesn’t obviously give a universe an “advantage”, and it’s not obvious that universes are competing with each other in any meaningful sense anyway.

You’re self-evidently right that Davies’ theory requires a magical being as originator (the Watchmaker God), but multiple universes don’t strike me as self-evidently rationally superior.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

I think Jason Soon summed up my position on the necessity of a God, and how Occam’s Razor cuts God down to size.

I’d only add that neurophysiology now strongly shows that the religious and numinous experiences which have created and perpetuated religions are not supernatural in origin. One might argue that God is in the trees, or in the Bible; but it looks more and more as if God is a glitch in the serotoninergic system of the Brain. It’s easier and cheaper to get your religious fix with Ecstasy. Probably safer too.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Ken, I believe that there is a cosmological equivalent to Darwin’s natural selection mechanism. I can’t quite remember the name of the person who proposed it.

Essentially, it goes like this:

Our universe is fine tuned, not for the formation of life, but rather for the formation of blackholes (however, what is good for blackhole formation, happens to be good for life).

The next step, is a theory that new universes can be created within a blackhole. These universes are similar, but not identical, to their parent universe.

Thus, the vast majority of universes are great at black hole formation. Luckily for us, this means that the vast majority of universes are great for the formation of life.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Lee Smolin is the name of the inventor of the hypothesis which I mentioned above.

Here is an interesting article where he presents his theory, as well as some other physicists reactions.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

This is another paper by Smolin. Titled “Scientific alternatives to the anthropic principle”, it was published in July of this year.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

The problem for humans on our particular version of the multiverse is not the existence of God, as in the answer to the question: “Mum, how did all this get going?” – ie God as the uncaused cause.

Like the multiverse, that is a trivial but pleasant exploration of ideas. The big problem is the belief that this first cause is interventionist, actually cares whether we swear at our children or don’t say our prayers or go into a certain room with our hair exposed.

I don’t think the notion of “God” as we use it is meaningful without this interventionist level. The concept depends on the linkage between both ideas. Now, who should I smite this afternoon?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Ken

Thanks for the reference to the Smolin paper. I found it very interesting, although I didn’t really understand a lot of the technical details.

Smolin doesn’t seem to be arguing that anthropic advocates like Davies and Hoyle are necessarily wrong (although I’m not entirely sure of that – see below), just that their proposals can’t be regarded as scientific theories because they’re not falsifiable. However, his theory about black holes and formation and destruction of universes also isn’t falsifiable, at least as scientific knoweldge currently stands. Nor is string theory. In both cases, it’s possible to imagine ways in which aspects of both theories might conceivably be falsifiable if and when science gets to a point of being able to perform those sorts of tests. But that isn’t the same as saying they’re scientific theories (as opposed to fascinating speculations); it’s simply saying they might (but also might not) become scientific theories at some time in the future. Until that day comes, they’re no better and no worse than the speculations of Davies or Hoyle.

In one sense, Smolin actually acknowledges the above in this passage:
If this is the case then it will always be true that basic questions about the universe cannot be answered by any scientific theory (that is by a theory that could be rationally argued, based on shared evidence to be true). But the fact that is a possibility does not mean we should worry unduly about it turning out to be true. This is not the only hypothesis about the world that, if true, means that science must remain forever incomplete.
What Smolin seems to be worrying about is that lots of scientists might become so impressed by Davies’ and Hoyle’s speculations (which Smolin argues, perhaps correctly, are inherently unfalsifiable) that they will give up looking for alternative falsifiable explanations and science will be overthrown!! Frankly, I don’t think Smolin has much to worry about. I don’t think scientists are going to stop looking for answers to any question that can be asked, or trying to approach those questions via the scientific method.

Nor would Davies or Hoyle have it any other way. Davies is just saying (at least as I read him) that the existence of an intelligent designer is at the very least a distinct possibility that can’t be ruled out in the present state of scientific knowledge. He certainly isn’t trying to persuade people to stop experimenting or devising other testable hypotheses. Smolin seems to be engaging in a bit of dodgy straw man rhetoric here.

There seem to be somewhat arrogantly hegemonic aspects to Smolin’s thought too i.e. he almost seems to be arguing at some points that because an entirely plausible way of looking at the universe and its creation is unfalsifiable, it is heresy and we must reject it out of hand and not entertain it at all. That is tantamount to an imperial claim for science as the be-all and end-all of everything, which is entitled by its own supposedly self-evident force to deny any space at all for explanations that aren’t falsifiable. If that’s what he’s saying it’s dangerous, arrogant nonsense. On the other hand, if he’s merely saying that we shouldn’t just assume that Davies and Hoyle are right and stop experimenting and proposing other (scientific) answers, then I agree and so would Davies.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Actually, there is an aspect of Smolin’s thesis that is testable; that our universe is fine-tuned for the creation of blackholes.

If somebody could show that altering one of the fundamental constants would lead to a large increase in blackhole formation, then the theory could be debunked.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Ken

But Smolin’s paper seems to concede (unless I’m misreading it, which is entirely possible given that much of it was over my head) that it isn’t possible to perform tests that could show that in the present state of scientific knowledge. He simply expresses the hope that modelling of star or black hole formation (I can’t remember which) might get good enough in the future to allow such testing. When it becomes possible, when such tests start being performed, and when they fail to falsify the theory, we’ll then be able to consider it a scientific theory in a meaningful sense.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Personally, I fit much closer to the Smolin camp than the Davies/Hoyle* camp. As far as I can tell, Smolin has offered a testable theory which beats untestifiable claims hands down (at least in my eyes). When science ventures to far into the world of untestifiable theories, it ceases to be science.

I don’t think that Smolin is offering a strawman argument when he attacks the Anthropic Principle. Rather, I feel that he saying that a scientist must always look for rational testable explanations. I don’t think that Davies would disagree with this, but I also think that his approach is ultimately limiting.**

I’ve never been a big fan of the idea that God hides in the gaps where science cannot see. Historically, this argument has been a loser, previous gaps, such as the apparent intelligent design of species have been found to be illusions. Of course, one should be very careful when extrapolating from old observations.

* Sidenote: I was under the impression that Hoyle didn’t believe in an intelligent designer, but rather that life was a fundamental property of a universe which had no beginning, nor end.

** Richard Dawkings once gave Micheal Behe a absolute bollocking (richly deserved, in my opinion) along similar lines for jumping on the irreversible complexity argument.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

I get home from the footy, and what do I find? Theology and cosmology, physics and philosphy. The wonders of the blogosphere.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Ken, you’re correct about the need for more modeling. However, Smolin’s thesis has been out in the wild for quite sometime now (I read his book about three or four years ago) and so far no astrophysicist has found a scenario which could debunk his theory.

Additionally he posits that the discovery of a Heavy pulsar would refute his hypothesis. In the same way, the discovery of a fast moving object which doesn’t conform to general relativity would refute significant proportions of Einstein’s work.

jen
jen
2022 years ago

Alright Parish I guess the issue is that the questions are asked in our culture. Perhaps it is not as rampantly arrogant as I was arguing – perhaps this scientific method that arranges verifiable facts into an ever changing and more intricate order is initself a reflection of the character of our white western culture – and that’s OK but from amoeba city here it seems altogether too busy when the way to easy living exists without having to pull reality apart and reassemble it – leaving bits out and blowing bits up – a skip – sorry you lot- However I am proud to belong to a culture that prizes questioning and intricacy and ends up with elegance. First time I saw chemical crstals through a microscopo or made a double helix – well I remember and appreciated the simple beauty of the shapes science and rational thinking produce. That doesn’t make what you call superstition less beautiful tho – hear me Parish

Link
2022 years ago

“I don’t think the notion of “God” as we use it is meaningful without this interventionist level. The concept depends on the linkage between both ideas. Now, who should I smite this afternoon?”

David T
You could try me. No don’t. I’m particularly thin-skinned at present. How would you like God to intervene? And doesn’t he do that anway, in subtle ways, down in the black hole of our being where nobody knows or sees? And most dont’ even go.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Be’elze.. The hard line of intervention is the plunging screaming into lakes of fire for impure thoughts or believing the wrong version. None of us would take that line, but many do.

The soft line is some sort of mystic preference, in which God states her desire for some stuff to happen like grace and mercy and forgiveness. Not too many professed Christians would put it that softly. Either way, that is what I mean by “interventionist”. Without that, the notion of God as we use it is meaningless, just a first cause.

Gianna
2022 years ago

just a couple of minor design flaws: (a) we die and (b) our planet’s on its way to a hot date with the sun…our universe could be a tad bio-friendler if you ask me.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Gianna

Those aren’t design flaw at all if you think about it. Davies isn’t saying that the universe was designed to favour humans (or planet earth) in particular, just that there is a fundamental organising force driving complexity and elaboration. Moreover, it’s necessarily an “edge of chaos” system, and in part that’s what drives the elaboration. It’s a bit like a cosmic version of Schumpeter’s creative destruction in relation to capitalism.

Gianna
2022 years ago

i’ll take your word for it, Ken, that stuff is beyond me…but it’s still a design flaw if positing a sentient creator-being that favours humans (being created in its image, etc etc).

btw why would a god come along, “intervene” in creating the world etc, then turn all non-interventionist on us and leave us to fend for ourselves? what’s the point of that? entertainment? sport?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Gianna

You haven’t read the post, have you? Or Davies’ Templeton Address (which is linked). Davies isn’t talking about an anthropomorphic God, and quite specifically denies the sense of divine intervenetion exactly as you just did. I deal with this in my post too. However, I know it was very long and you’re very busy with the baby.