The Mind of God: POB pt. 2

In light of the five reasons for doubt that Clayton and Knapp presented in chapter one of The Predicament of Belief (POB), the authors attempt to move forward and present a view of Christian theism that is both plausible for the modern believer and faithful to the tradition’s core commitments. This is what makes Clayton and Knapp’s approach different from most of what could be considered Christian apologetics: instead of attempting to explain away the reasons for doubt that they present, they presuppose them and attempt to formulate a view of Christianity that makes sense in light of them.

To begin this endeavor the authors defend their desire to want to even ask about an ultimate reality. In short, they contend that there are some things that science simply cannot answer. Behind the natural laws of the universe that science seeks to better understand one could always ask, “Why these laws, rather than other laws?” Of course, at this point one leaves the realm of scientific inquiry and enters into the realm of philosophical musing. It is often unrecognized by many that the narrative that modern science constructs concerning the purpose and meaning (or lack there of) of the universe is founded on assumptions and presuppositions that simply cannot be proven on scientific grounds alone. I explored some of these assumptions in a previous post.

Snowflakes forming complex symmetrical patterns is an example of emergence in a physical system.

So despite the fact that modern science, aided by theories of evolutionary emergence, can explain how beings like us could have evolved in a universe initially characterized by physical forces alone, the question that still remains is as follows: why do these most fundamental physical processes exist at all? Again, one cannot answer this metaphysical question by scientific means alone. Clayton and Knapp go on to conclude the following:

It is not at all inconsistent, consequently, for someone who accepts contemprary physics and biology to grant the power of these sciences to explain how particular phenomena arose from the processes of the natural universe and yet still maintain that the ultimate explanation of those phenomena lies outisde the scope of those theories. Given the universe we have, the natural and social sciences can explain how phenomena like life and mind evolved within that universe. But they do not explain why a universe in which those phenomena are possible should exist in the first place.   – POB pg. 29

Thus, it would seem that the fine tuning of the universe that we find ourselves in suggests the existence of an ultimate reality capable of intentional action. Many would object to this, however. The formulation of multiverse theory, or the belief that there is indeed more than a single universe (i.e., the one that we are currently experiencing), would suggest that, given the vast array of possible outcomes among the various universes, the fact that life has emerged in one of them is not necessarily improbable.

In response to this, however, Clayton and Knapp aptly point out that such a response merely shifts the focus of our question (“Why does a natural order capable of supporting the evolution of life and mind even exist?”) from this particular universe to the total ensemble of universes that may exist. It could still be asked, “Why were the conditions correct for life to exist in even one of the many universes that could potentially exist?” Again, the authors explain:

All multiverse theories implicitly accept the possibility of making assertions that are true of the entire (presumably infinite) ensemble of existing universes. In particular, these theories require us to postulate that certain basic conditions hold across all these universes, for if there were no shared lawlike relations, no such theory would qualify as a scientific theory. – POB pg. 32

The fact that, if multiverse theory actually is true, there are a number of set physical laws that transcend the total number of universes suggests that these laws, in a sense, preceded all universes but, as Clayton and Knapp point out, “not as descriptions of physical regularities.”

Before any universe existed, the laws of multiverse physics–the laws that multiverse theory needs if it is to be physics–were not yet “instantiated.” There was as yet nothing that existed to instantiate them; they were pure potentials, pure possibilities. They were not physical things but the principles by which physical things belonging to each of the many universes would be “governed.” But if they were not physical things, what kind of thing were they? And in what did they “reside” if not in a physical universe? – POB pgs. 32-33.

Of course, the answer must be that these laws existed in the “mind” of an ultimate reality:

To say that the laws of physics hold apart from the existence of any particular physical universe is to say that physical laws are more like concepts than they are like physical things. And where might (something like) a concept reside if not in (something like) a mind? – POB pg. 33

Thus, Clayton and Knapp argue that whether one accepts the notion that there is one universe or the notion that there are multiple universes, the likelihood that there is  a mindlike ultimate reality behind all that exists is more probable than either the idea that there is no ultimate reality at all or that the ultimate reality can be described in strictly physical terms.

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One response to “The Mind of God: POB pt. 2

  1. Pingback: How Does God Act in the World? – POB pt. 4 | garret menges blog

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