Friday, April 24, 2020

What does causation look like in a world without design?

Consider what happens when I am at the bottom of a mountain and rocks are falling down the mountain in an avalanche. Will the rocks avoid my head because they want to spare me, or hit me because they think I deserve to get my head smashed in? No, they will blindly follow what the laws of physics require that they do, given their trajectory and velocity. If physical determinism is true, the laws and facts, which are blind to purposes of any kind, guarantee all future states. Any even that occurs other than those which the laws and facts require would be, in fact, in a significant sense, miraculous. But what if the physical level is not deterministic, on the basis of some quantum mechanical indeterminism? Even there, a cause which introduces design at the basic level of analysis still introduces a miracle to the blind universe.

Consider the falling rock example once again. What if I look up to see the avalanche headed straight for me, and I see no way of escape. I am, I conclude, certain to be crushed by the rocks. But then, to my surprise, the rocks veer away from me and go someplace else. Probably as a Christian, I would see this as a divine miracle. But even if I were not a Christian, I would at the very least see this change in the direction of the rocks as the work of someone with a mind, and the technological capability of redirecting the pathway of the rocks, perhaps some benevolent aliens from another planet. 


John B. Moore said...

The important thing is to recognize our ignorance and avoid jumping to conclusions. Sure, a powerful person might have diverted the rocks in order to save me, but I really have no way of knowing that.

It might feel good for me to imagine some powerful person watching over me, but we shouldn't let our imagination overrule reason. Even when reason can't give us a convincing explanation, we still shouldn't indulge in comforting fantasies. We should simply say "I don't know" and leave it at that.

StardustyPsyche said...

"What does causation look like in a world without design?"
The changing universe we do in fact observe.

Sorry, kind of hard for me to see where you are going with all this. Rocks don't just suddenly diverge in our observations, juat as one would expect in a universe absent god.

You have provided a nice negative inductive argument against god. Now, negative inductive arguments are by definition not positive proofs, just evidence.

Victor Reppert said...

So, everyone wishes there could be a God, and those who don't are just those who manage to pay attention the evidence instead of their wishes? No, and I won't buy the Brooklyn Bridge either.

Thomas Nagel: “I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind …. This is a somewhat ridiculous situation …. [I]t is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist.”

StardustyPsyche said...

"So, everyone wishes there could be a God, and those who don't are just those who manage to pay attention the evidence instead of their wishes? No, and I won't buy the Brooklyn Bridge either. "
Hmmm... Obviously, you had a subject in mind with this post, but I have not figured out what that is yet! Could be I am a bit slow today, that has been known to happen...

"What does causation look like in a world without design?"
As I mentioned before, causality we observe, to the extent that causality is a valid notion at all, absent an intelligent designer for the universe, looks like what we do in fact observe in this universe.

I suppose some people might wish for a god, or wish for no god. For myself I wish I could live to be 500, or 10000, or some very much longer time then I will live. For myself, the issue of wanting a god or wanting no god just doesn't come up one way or the other, oh, except now that I am thinking about it, once in a great while I am glad there is no good reason to think Allah or Yahweh exist because they seem to be the most viciously sadistic and cruelly torturous beings ever invented in the minds of men.

I am thoroughly convinced there is no god and that when I die I will know nothing ever again because there will be no more me. The stuff I am made of will disperse into the environment irrespective of what I wish for.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't see, how, if naturalism is true, there can be "me" now. I can't see how they can believe in a metaphysically real entity that ceases to exist when a person dies. If naturalism is true, I think you'd have to conclude that there were no persons in the first place.