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The Ghost in The Universe God in Light of Modern Science

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Is there any spiritual reality beyond nature? Is this a ... A generic metaphysical God which dominates the conversation among philosophers of religion. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Ghost in The Universe God in Light of Modern Science


1
The Ghost in The Universe God in Light of Modern
Science
  • Taner Edis
  • Truman State University
  • www2.truman.edu/edis

2
Questions
  • Is there a God? Is there any spiritual reality
    beyond nature?
  • Is this a philosophical question? A matter of
    faith?
  • What do our sciences have to say?
  • Another book by a physicist with God in the
    title?

3
My Approach
  • Im not happy with the traditional philosophical
    debate about God. Too armchair. Does
    libertarian free will require theism sort of
    thing.
  • Religions make fact claims! Creation,
    revelation, miracles, a purpose to the universe.
    Spiritual realities are supposed to help explain
    the world.

4
What sort of world is this?
  • Even liberal religions imagine reality
    anthropomorphically claiming realities beyond
    nature. Down deep, reality is supposed to be
    somewhat mind-like.
  • So, lets rely on science. In a broad sense,
    including not only natural science but history,
    philosophy, psychology and so on. Lets see what
    sort of world we live in...

5
What kind of claims?
6
The God of the Philosophers
  • The classical proofs
  • Gods nonexistence is inconceivable.
  • The universe requires God as a cause.
  • Complex order indicates a designer-God.
  • A generic metaphysical God which dominates the
    conversation among philosophers of religion.

7
Philosophers Criticisms
  • The proofs fail
  • God might not exist.
  • The universe might be a brute fact.
  • Complex order might arise naturally.
  • But the best explanation of the world as we find
    it may well be a religious theory, where a God
    takes on a central role.

8
Order by Design
  • Religions envision a top-down, mind-first
  • reality. Order must result from design.
  • Conservatives Reject naturalistic explanations.
    Deny Darwinian evolution, promote Intelligent
    Design.
  • Liberals God can work through natural
    processes. Guided, progressive evolution
    evolution as Gods way of creation.

9
Darwinian Creativity
  • But all creativity is Darwinian, bottom-up.
  • Evolution is unguided progress is only due to
    starting out simple. Order arises from random
    variation and selection. Attaching a God is
    arbitrary.
  • Our own creative intelligence depends on
    Darwinian processes in the brain. We know of no
    non-Darwinian design.

10
Theistic Cosmology
  • Physical constants fine-tuned for intelligent
    life to exist.
  • The big bang is an event of creation. The
    universe began it requires a God as a cause.
  • Quantum mechanics indicates consciousness is the
    fundamental reality.
  • The elegant symmetries of physical laws point to
    a supreme intelligence.

11
Physical Cosmology
  • Physical constraints or multiple universes.
    Theistic explanation itself fine-tuned.
  • Big bang begins space and time. Random
    uncaused. Or, no true boundary.
  • Quantum mechanics does not require consciousness.
    Just weird, not magical.
  • Symmetric laws are frameworks for accidents
    like coin flipping.

12
Sacred History
  • Jewish History Pattern of disobedience and
    divine punishment.
  • Christianity Jesus life and Resurrection.
  • Islam Revelation as described in orthodox
    history. Miracle of Quran.
  • Revelation as radical novelty breaking into
    history. Religious experience related in
    scriptures.

13
Critical History
  • Sacred histories are not trustworthy accounts but
    origin myths of communities.
  • Founding persons and events can be understood in
    ordinary historical terms e.g. Jesus as a failed
    apocalyptic prophet.
  • Religions do not stand apart from ordinary
    naturalistic history. There is no need for a God
    to explain religious events.

14
Signs and Wonders
  • Levitating saints, bleeding statues, raising the
    dead, …
  • ESP, mind-over-matter, precognition,
    spoon-bending, ...
  • Near-death and out-of-body experiences, UFO
    abductions, past-life memories, …
  • Signs that there is a spiritual reality beyond
    mere matter?

15
ESP Error Some Place
  • Miracles in the wild are likely perceptual
    mistakes, trickery, etc.
  • Laboratory parapsychology produces inconsistent,
    marginal results. Nothing stands out from among
    mistakes.
  • NDE, OBE best addressed by neuroscience.
  • No free-floating spirits or minds beyond brains.

16
Contact with the Ultimate
  • God, the spiritual foundation of reality, must be
    directly experienced. Mystical and religious
    experience is the key.
  • This ultimate reality is ineffable, beyond
    description, beyond the bounds of reason.
  • Platonic mysticism Human reason goes beyond
    machines, making contact with the truly Real.

17
All machine, no ghost
  • Mystical experience is conditioned by religious
    traditions. Too many flavors of ultimate
    reality, including nontheistic.
  • The experience appears to be explainable without
    going beyond the brain.
  • Explaining and capturing are not the same.
  • Darwin machines, like our brains, rely on
    randomness to do non-Platonic reasoning.

18
Back to Philosophy?
  • Postmodernism Science has no privilege over
    other ways of knowing. Or, need to invoke a
    rational God to resolve the crisis of reason and
    guarantee that science works.
  • Objective, prescriptive moral truths cannot be
    grounded in mere material nature. Our moral
    behavior, recognizing the authority of morality,
    is rooted in a spiritual reality.

19
Back to Science!
  • Science works, and this fact is best explained
    from within science. We need no uncriticizable
    presuppositions to ground our knowledge about the
    world.
  • Our stable interests, and morality as a social
    enterprise, are best understood through our
    sciences. Good and evil is neither fully
    objective nor completely subjective.

20
Why accept any of this?
?
?
  • These are ambitious claims. They cut against
    common sense, and run counter to some
    sophisticated intellectual positions.
  • They need a long argument in support. Thats the
    books job.
  • But I should give a taste of how the arguments
    go...

21
Is it all an accident?
  • Common sense, as well as common theistic
    intuition, rebels against the notion that the
    universe is a mere accident.
  • But for naturalists, at some level, it must be.
  • Is calling something an accident just covering up
    an ignorance of real causes?
  • This is also a question for scientists there is
    plenty of randomness in modern physics.

22
Playing dice with the world
  • Fundamental physics is full of randomness
  • Quantum mechanics e.g. pair creation.
  • Singularities of General Relativity (black holes,
    big bang).
  • Even everyday physics
  • The existence of heat due to disorder and
    randomness.

23
The dice
  • Elegant fundamental laws say very little about
    our world. That comes through low-energy laws,
    frozen accidents, randomly realized through
    symmetry breaking. The most basic laws only tell
    what sort of dice generated our history.
  • Randomness is fundamental in physics. This is no
    accident.

24
Hidden causes?
  • But is not randomness again just a label for
    ignorance?
  • Common theistic move God directs seeming
    accidents of evolution and history. God selects
    the universe coming out of the Big Bang. A
    hidden, nonphysical cause.
  • Causal determinism still attracts physicists.
    E.g. Bohmian quantum mechanics.

25
What is randomness?
  • Mathematically, a random infinite sequence is one
    which lacks any pattern.

. . .
T
H
T
H
T
H
T
H
Alternating pattern of heads and tails
. . .
H
T
H
T
T
T
H
T
Patternless, random sequence
26
Where explanation ends
1011101 0001011 1100100
  • Cant predict next coin in random sequence.
    Cant find a theory giving the pattern.
  • Cant do our usual pattern recognition and find a
    place in a network of causes.
  • We call something random when theres no pattern
    and no good prospect of finding one. When we
    have to say its a brute fact.
  • All sequences are partly random.

27
Randomness is basic!
  • In fundamental theories of physics, where
    explanation ends, we have randomness. The laws
    are random, simple, framing accidents. The
    dynamics are also random.
  • Everyday cause and effect are, in fact, not
    fundamental. They emerge, like the arrow of
    time, from a microscopic substrate where things
    just happen randomly.

28
An accidental world
  • Two reasons there is no God or spirit
  • No legitimate way to infer a God from a universe
    which is fundamentally random. Completely
    arbitrary, uninformative.
  • Our very minds are products of this accidental,
    material world, relying on this randomness for
    creativity. The analogy to our minds cannot even
    start.

29
In Short
Conclusion
  • Our sciences, in a broad sense, are the best
    tools to bring to the debate over God.
  • Religious theories have been massive failures
    liberal reinterpretations are merely evasive.
  • We have an alternative view of the world
    Naturalistic, random in the end, which does a
    much better job explaining things.

30
The Book
  • The Ghost in the Universe, by Taner Edis,
    published by Prometheus Books, 2002.
  • Available in larger bookstores, amazon.com, etc.

31
My web site
  • www2.truman.edu/edis
  • Contains all sorts of articles, including the
    slides of this talk, and the introductory chapter
    of The Ghost in the Universe.
  • My e-mail is edis_at_truman.edu

32
Thanks for listening!
QA
  • Any questions?

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