A certain self-named Hot Abercrombie Chick has been constructing arguments about the existence of God. While she may be hot and may be a philosophy major, her essay has generated far too many comments relative to the content. Not to be nasty… it’s a nice attempt but even a theist ought to be embarrassed at such a simplistic conception of “it all”.
One note from the world of physics that might help clear up things: the anthropic cosmological principle forwarded by, among others, Frank J. Tipler (before he went crazyhere’s a review of that insanity) claims that the structure of the universe suggests either design, or an infinity of universes and our dumb luck (or inevitability). The point being that the universe seems to have all the perfect starting conditions for intelligent, complex life to arise, either because it was designed that way, or because it had to happen somewhere in some universe and therefore of course we’re here to observe it.
However, one should note that even the notion of design needn’t necessitate the presence of a “divine creator”. Suggestions have been made, in the wake of various discussions of baby universes emerging from black holes in a mother universe, that sufficiently technologically advanced beings could probably manipulate conditions within a black hole to “tune” the baby universe to have specific starting conditions. They could never intervene or visit it, so it seems, but they could possibly create universes inaccessible to themselves but teeming with life. It’s a fascinating possibility that’s turned up a few times in SF novels since.
So one thing to bear in mind is that all those neat little definitions and concepts Abercrombie Chick is throwing around involve an investiture of faith. And what’s cool is that I think I can do all the same philosophizing without leaning on an invisible, unprovable being’s existence. What I come up with philosophically stands solid whether or not there is a God.
After sleeping on it, I also realized that I’d forgotten to mention the following: the apparent appearance of design does not necessarily imply design. Sometimes we find rocks that happen to look, to us, as if they are shaped like something else: human faces, animals, or what have you. The previous tenant in my apartment left two rocks on the top of the fridge, one of which looks like a cartoon duck’s head and the other of which reminds of me a femur bone.
Now, in Korea there was an ancient practice of collecting and venerating such stones. This was the basis of a kind of religious practice here, in fact. And the funny thing is, these things only kind of look like what we see when we look at them. Our minds are so good at reading images into shapes, at filling in the blanks, that when we see a circle with a protruding triangle attached, we see a cartoon duck’s head. But it’s a kind of optical illusion.
Human minds are very good at doing this: (a) filling in the blanks so we see more than what is there, and (b) then assuming that there is a “rational explanation” for this apparently astounding design. So it is with evolution, which is satisfactorily explicable without any divine involvement at all. (Which doesn’t precluse divine involvement at the first instant, or in setting up the starting parameters at the moment of the Big Bangbut since it’s not necessaitated by anything, there’s no need to assume divine involvement and no way to prove it. Again, the issue of a deity becomes a question of faith, and, interestingly, a moot point.)
And yes, Occam’s Razor is specifically scientific, but it’s useful in philosophy as well. If you wish to insist on the existence and all-powerful nature of a particular, historically-specific desert tribe’s god, and insist on his singularity (despite the fact that for most of the history of the worship of that god there were swarms of competitors ackowledged to exist), what’s to stop me from claiming you have it wrong and a horde of pink alien bunnies seeded the earth from space a few billion years ago and live among us in human form now as a complex experiment? Or that it’s the Hindu pantheon that’s correct and Hindu cosmology that’s true, for a less astounding example. You can do all the philosophical backflips you wish to do when preaching to the (theist) choir, but for any philosophy that’s worth the time, you need to be performing Occam’s Razor because it’ll guide you to the issues worth philosophizing about in the larger human community. After all, your deity is a matter of personal faith, and since it’s all unprovable you can pretty believe whatever you want… the philosophy therefore seems to me to be a way of justifying your own intuitions, and not about finding “the fundamental truth” because after all, “YHWH is unprovable” is the fundamental truth in this world. You can believe, but you can never know absolutely. That’s that. I’m going back to bed now.