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Regarding the origins of the universe

May 2007

Regarding the origins of the universe: an attempt to tie together a number of disparate threads

1.

Creationism boils down to this: old-man white-beard Jehovah making mud sculptures on the banks of the Euphrates a ridiculously short length of time ago. Mud sculptures, god-breath, life!

It's a picture not without its charms, but it's utterly human. Far too human, in my opinion. God is not one of us.

2.

In the beginning, this story goes, was matter. Mindless, soulless, will-less, static, matter. Then, it decided to got it in its head to for no apparent reason randomly exploded into things.

From this, supposedly, came form, then order, then life, and finally consciousness, awareness, thought. Since when has outcome preceded intent?

It's attractive, though. Our maintained existence from one moment to the next depends only the laws of physics continuing as they are. Even if god forgets us, we won't vanish.

3.

Our universe makes sense. Logic, reason, the scientific method, all work. Sure, they can't always tell the whole story, but even in that they are consistent. Our universe has an underlying order to it.

6.

All of this suggests something to me. There is a Being, a will, a consciousness underlying all of reality. Not for nothing is god sometimes called 'the ultimate reality.'

This Being is, in some sense, rational and logical—even though these are human concepts. Therefore, we share at least some values with the Being. We are, as it goes, in Its image.

eonsim commented:

Nice, I certainly agree with this. The bit in 6 I whole heartedly agree with (though shouldn't it be 4??).

I'm not so sure about 3 though, I'd make it a little less certain than that, that the universe has a perceived order/sense to it whether or not it actually and fundamentally makes "sense" I'm not so sure about.

A bit of an aside In recent years I've been amused by those who argue for 1 and against 2 in that #2 suggests "God" is weak or insults It. Because ex nihilo creation of the universe/humans obviously requires more power/greater knowledge than than creating or setting rules which by there nature create/evolve into life and every thing else.

era commented:

  1. Agree.
  2. Strikes me as a straw man of sorts. That a teleological system can arise in a purely efficient cause universe was the greatest scientific discovery since Newton.
  3. It is our experience of the universe that makes sense. Because we can never escape our experience, for all we know the world itself doesn't actually make sense. 4. 5.
  4. God is nothing more than the idealisation of a few of our concepts.

Matt commented:

I guess I'm just trying to articulate what I mean when I talk about 'god'. You're (both) right about the subjectivity of logic/order/experience though, shall have to think further about that. And yes, I've always struggled to find the right balance between us being made in god's image and us creating god in ours.

(1 + 2 + 3 = 6)

Nato commented:

Regarding number 3, have you ever looked up the anthropic principle?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle

Basically, it argues that the reason the universe doesn't satisfy certain criteria, e.g. it wasn't ordered, there wouldn't be any people to observe the universe. Therefore, those criteria are necessary in any universe which anyone could observe, and had to occur. That could explain why the universe has to be ordered.

era commented:

The anthropic principle doesn't really explain anything. There is a little story about a man in front of a firing squad. Everyone fires, and misses! So he thinks to himself... "well, I wouldn't be thinking this if they hadn't all missed." It is true of course, but it just doesn't explain what happened.

Nato commented:

mmm... It doesn't explain exactly what has happened, but it is useful in helping us to appreciate the how seemingly improbable events (or improbable states of the universe) that are necessary for experience, are what we experience, without requiring some explanation of divine intervention.

e.g. Say the man's fate is decided by dice. If the die was rolled multiple times, and whenever anything but a 6 is rolled, the man gets shot. The result will be that he will only ever observe 6s. On the basis of this, he may decide that there was some supernatural force protecting him. Alternatively, he just happened to get 6s every time.

Nato commented:

Er... Apologies about hard to understandness of the previous comment.