Thursday, June 19, 2014

God and Cosmology Pt. II

Yesterday I mentioned the interview by Notre Dame philosopher Gary Gutting of atheist philosopher Tim Maudlin who made the claim that neither the earth nor mankind occupy a "privileged place" in the cosmos.

I explained yesterday the sense in which I thought mankind could very well enjoy such a status. There's a video soon to be released based on the work of biochemist Michael Denton which draws a similar conclusion based on different arguments.

Others have written about why the earth itself occupies a "privileged" position. Interested readers can check out the book Privileged Planet by astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay Richards. Philosopher Robin Collins has made similar arguments as well.

Here's more of Gary Gutting's interview with Prof. Maudlin:
Maudlin: Theism, as religious people typically hold it, does not merely state that some entity created the universe, but that the universe was created specifically with humans in mind as the most important part of creation. If we have any understanding at all of how an intelligent agent capable of creating the material universe would act if it had such an intention, we would say it would not create the huge structure we see, most of it completely irrelevant for life on Earth, with the Earth in such a seemingly random location, and with humans appearing only after a long and rather random course of evolution.
As I argued yesterday, if God chose to create the universe in the fashion cosmologists think it was created then the "huge structure" of the universe was a by-product of creating a world which contained the elements necessary to produce and sustain human life. These elements were created in the cores of stars which had to run through their life cycles and ultimately explode, dispersing their material throughout space. Those life cycles take billions of years, during which time the universe was expanding to it's present size.

But beyond that, Maudlin presumes to know why, and therefore how, God would have created the world had he wanted to create a habitat for humans. He elsewhere says we know very little about the cosmos, but he here assumes he knows enough to say how the universe should be structured if indeed it were created for humans. How does he know that the vastness of space wasn't created simply for the pleasure of the creator, just as people plant gardens or paint pictures that no one else will ever see simply because it gives them pleasure to create such beauty?

Anyway, here's more of the interview:
Gutting: I’d like to hear your thoughts on a recent effort to find scientific support for religious views. Some theists have appealed to scientific cosmology to argue that there’s a “fine-tuning” of physical constants that shows that the universe is designed to support living beings and, in particular, humans. It’s said, for example, that if the ratio of the mass of the neutron to the mass of the proton were just slightly different, there couldn’t be sufficient structure to allow for the existence of organisms like us.

Maudlin: At this point, our physical theories contain quite a large number of “constants of nature,” of which we have no deeper account. There seem to be more of them than most physicists are comfortable with, and we don’t know for sure whether these “constants” are really constant rather than variable. This gives rise to questions about “fine-tuning” of these constants....One thing is for sure: If there were some deity who desired that we know of its existence, there would be simple, clear ways to convey that information. I would say that any theistic argument that starts with the constants of nature cannot end with a deity who is interested in us knowing of its existence.
This is a remarkably presumptuous and inadequate reply. Maudlin claims that if God wished to make his existence known he could do so unambiguously. But because, if he exists, he doesn't make his existence unambiguously known to us he must therefore not really be interested in whether or not we know he exists. The unspoken corollary is that therefore whether we believe in his existence or not is not a matter of any real importance or concern to God.

The reason this is presumptuous is that in order to make the argument you have to presume to know an awful lot about what God is thinking and why he does what he does. Maudlin seems to believe that the theist's conception of God is a sort of giant version of Maudlin himself, and that God would think and act just as Maudlin himself would were he God.

For my part, I suspect that God has so ordered things that those who don't wish for God to exist will fail to see evidence that those who do want God to be there will see as clear indications that he exists. In other words, people tend to see in the "fine-tuning" of the universe, the amazing complexity of living cells, and their own personal existential yearnings either no evidence or strong evidence for God depending upon what they want in their heart to be true. Those who are determined not to see a divine Mind behind the origin and structure of the cosmos, won't. Those who are open to the existence of such a Mind, might.