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← Para-naturalistic theories cannot lead to practical engineering

jfmanning's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by jfmanning

People reach for supernatural explanations for a wide range of reasons, but these days, science itself postulates a reality of such impenetrable weirdness that well-intentioned folk may be forgiven for succumbing to one form or another of the teleological argument. Cosmology reverses a centuries-long ban on the concept of ex nihilo creation by affirming that the Big Bang arose from a condition (prior to? outside of?) time and space. For many of us, that sounds suspiciously like a definition of supernatural. This universe flashes across the barrier of non-existence and arrives with a deep instantiation of intelligence encoded in natural law, enabling the fusion of complex elements in stars, for example, which leads in enough time and circumstance to the Darwinian inevitability of evolving life. What happens to the Second Law of Thermodynamics in this postulate? How does intelligent life arise from this soup, when further devolution into chaos was, on the face of it, so much more likely? Is entropy abrogated at the bridge of the singularity? (On that note, even chaos is no longer the mish-mash we once thought, thanks to fractal geometry.)

We are driven by the sheer improbability of these events to the many worlds interpretation of quantum theory, further refined by the anthropic principle, which states essentially that it had to be this way for homo sapiens to comment upon it. I get the logic, but it doesn't satisfy. In The God Delusion, Dawkins recounts the circular argument for Purgatory, which has to exist because otherwise, what the hell are we praying for? The anthropic principle, though demonstrably more rational, smacks of the same circularity, disposing of improbability with a banal appeal to the obvious: How improbable can it be? It IS!

The natural history of this world is a story of self-aware consciousness arising from (or invading, as some prefer) matter, in persistent defiance of our notions of entropy. Whatever the encoding mechanism was before (if that adverb is even remotely relevant) the Big Bang, the workings of the deployed universe are mysterious enough to inspire awe, astonishment, and perhaps even reverence. Those feelings are not identical with superstition. They are a natural response to an extremely complex environment.

Mon, 06 Aug 2012 09:28:16 UTC | #950420