Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Universe: Accident or Intentional?

So a forum poster and I are having a little debate on the origins of the universe over at The Frum Skeptics Group. I think the set-up is pretty obvious here. This is already a few posts in.

"I find both possibilities equally reasonable - or rather - equallyunreasonable. Given how little we know about how universes are created(nothing, actually) - I find the very claim that either possibility ismore likely - unreasonable."

That's only on a very strict empirical sense. It's true we don't have any experience of how universes are created but it isn't necessarily the worst idea to base our beliefs about how the universe came to be on our experience of how things come to be within the universe.
It's true you can, in a purely logical standpoint, reject the analogy - but it is also true that we have nothing else to go on.

Furthermore, I never said anything about "likelihood," I asked solely about the reasonableness of the assumption.

Suppose you have to choose - accidental or intentional - why would you choose accidental when everything in your experience says otherwise. It's true that your experience could be a poor sample group, but again, THAT'S ALL YOU'VE GOT. I say it is a bigger jump to assume it is an accident then to match it with intent.

"You keep insisting that this universe is 'complex and impressive'. I will keep pointing out that you have no basis in making this claim."

Since I can only compare it to other things in my experience, it is the biggest, most complex and impressive structure that I know of. I keep repeating myself when I say I know it is not logically foolproof, it certainly _could_ be objectively pitiful and boring, but I don't have the luxury of that viewpoint nor the opportunity to ever get it. I can only make a decision on the knowledge I do have - even as limited as it may be.

At least with an assumption of intent I can justify my view with my experience, even while admitting its poorness in quality. But to assume the universe an accident means that you reject even your experience and lay your hat merely upon proving that you do not find the logical necessity of my view compelling.

What is your justification for assuming the universe is an accident? You have not proven that intentional creation is wrong, you have merely shown that it is not logically necessarily correct - which is fine. The same could be done to any scientific theory. Induction has that weakness.

11 comments:

B. Spinoza said...

Without reading your whole conversation, I will make one point. Forgive me if you mentioned it already.

I think there are more choices than accidental and intentional. there is also the possibility of unintentional, but necessary. So it's not an "accident" because it had to happen in exactly the way that it did, but at the same time it's not "intentional" i.e. there isn't a force which created it with a purpose or function in mind. The way I look at it is Existence is what it is, and I accept it as that

Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

I have considered that possibility, but that's really just a variant of accident. You're just pushing back the question one degree. Then the question becomes what "made" it be that way? Accidental determinators or not?

B. Spinoza said...

you have the same question with intentional creation. Who created the thing that created the world with intention? Was It created by accident or intention? or perhaps it is eternal, but you can say the say thing about the Universe itself, that it is also eternal.

Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

You are right of course, but we know that the universe, as we are familiar with it, did begin at a certain time in the past.

Maybe there is a bigger primevel Superuniverse "before" it, but that's a matter of pure speculation.

I don't pretend to know anything about how the universe came to be. All I'm saying is that when you look around, does it really occur to you that it was all an accident?

When you learn about our origins and all the convenient "accidental" circumstances that led to our existence and all the complex interactions that must take place for us to exist on the smallest atomic and molecular scales, it becomes difficult to continue rationalizing that it could all be a coincidence.

We only know of one universe and one set of physical laws. And even in science, coincidences are viewed very suspiciously.

B. Spinoza said...

Yes, science knowledge teaches that the universe as we know it must have a beginning. They call this beginning the Big Bang. But the key phrase is "as we know it". Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think science teaches creation ex nilo, does it? If not, then the energy (or what ever) that the big bang emerged from must have existed prior to the Big Bang. To say that the energy just popped into existence without prior cause is not scientific or rational, and at the very least is arbitrary without any proof.

You don't have to say that it was accidental that this source turned into the universe that we know. You can say that it was it's nature to turn into it. An analogy would be a seed that turns into a flower. The seed doesn't need intent, nor is it accidental that this happens. it just does based on its nature. I think that was David Hume's analogy. In nature we things transform into complex things all the time by themselves. It is only when we look at human inventions do we know that they were created with intent. The mistake is to compare the universe (or anything in nature) to a man made object

I am not familiar with cosmological science (or any real science), so if I say anything stupid, let me know

Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think science teaches creation ex nilo, does it? If not, then the energy (or what ever) that the big bang emerged from must have existed prior to the Big Bang."

Well, as a matter of fact, there is no consensus of where the initial conditions for the Big Bang came from. All the Big Bang theory supposes, that is relevant to us here, is that the entire universe was crunched into a very small space a long time ago in the past.

Science doesn't discount ex nihilo, but neither does it support it. In fact, the very laws of physics appear to break down if the first few moments of the Big Bang are examined. And since time and possibly causality and logic began with the Big Bang and the birth of our universe it may not even make any sense to talk about a "before" the Big Bang.

"To say that the energy just popped into existence without prior cause is not scientific or rational, and at the very least is arbitrary without any proof."

True enough, but since observations from "before" or "outside" the universe are probably impossible, rational and scientific views may be irrelevant and nonsensical.

"You can say that it was it's nature to turn into it. An analogy would be a seed that turns into a flower. The seed doesn't need intent, nor is it accidental that this happens. it just does based on its nature."

For something to have a "nature" it must already have a set of rules by which it must follow. Yet the question with the universe is that the physical rules are what the universe creates - not the other way around.

Does the universe have a nature? For that to make any sense then something would have to exist "before" the universe which endowed the universe with its nature to determine how it would "grow." But again, also purely speculative. And then the question becomes regressive in asking where did _that_ superstructure get _its_ nature from.

"The mistake is to compare the universe (or anything in nature) to a man made object"

Perhaps. Or perhaps it is a mistake to compare objects with their natures with an object which founds the rules of nature.

B. Spinoza said...

>In fact, the very laws of physics appear to break down if the first few moments of the Big Bang are examined. And since time and possibly causality and logic began with the Big Bang and the birth of our universe it may not even make any sense to talk about a "before" the Big Bang.

are we saying that the Big Bang makes no sense? That there can be no set of rules that explain it? How do we know this?

>For something to have a "nature" it must already have a set of rules by which it must follow. Yet the question with the universe is that the physical rules are what the universe creates - not the other way around.

I wouldn't say that the universe creates the physical rules. I would say that the laws of nature are the nature of the universe. In other words: the universe and its nature are one

>Does the universe have a nature? For that to make any sense then something would have to exist "before" the universe which endowed the universe with its nature to determine how it would "grow."

why does something have to exist before to endow it with its nature? Why can't it just exist? You have to start somewhere, so why can't the universe be that starting point

Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

"are we saying that the Big Bang makes no sense? That there can be no set of rules that explain it? How do we know this?"

We? I haven't said that it is necessarily so, but science does not have any answers and may never get them. But that remains to be seen.

"I wouldn't say that the universe creates the physical rules. I would say that the laws of nature are the nature of the universe. In other words: the universe and its nature are one"

So the universe itself is bound by the rules inside it? Even a seed's expression is bound by the rules set before and outside of it.

"why does something have to exist before to endow it with its nature? Why can't it just exist? You have to start somewhere, so why can't the universe be that starting point"

So where did this nature come from? How did it get so ordered? Why is it this way and not any other way? Basically, your explanation for the universe being the way it is is that "that's just the way it is." Not very satisfying.

smoo said...

[how do I get onto The Frum Skeptics Group?]
“It's true we don't have any experience of how universes are created but it isn't necessarily the worst idea to base our beliefs about how the universe came to be on our experience of how things come to be within the universe.”

I don’t believe we can truly answer whether the universe was accidental or intentional but we absolutely can speculate on the matter using our experience and consciousness. Most of below is from the Hidden Face of God by Richard Elliot Friedman.
The big bang has three components. 1. The universe is expanding 2. There is a remnant of the birth of the universe = comic background radiation. 3. That remnant is uneven (thus allowing for the differentiation of galaxies etc)
*The formation of the universe is PART of our composition.* Humans, having the highest level of developed CONSCIOUNESS, may have the ability to be in touch with the part of the original formation that still reverberates in all. [Consciousness has been described as the element that is quintessentially the image of God]. Roger Penrose is quoted in the Friedman’s book as saying; “Consciousness…is the phenomenon whereby the universe’s very existence is made known.” Paul Davies Queries “…is it inevitable that biological organisms that emerged from the cosmic order should reflect that order in their cognitive capabilities?” Perhaps our ‘programming’ has the same fundamental basis that we can use it effectively in our search for the answer to the mysteries of the universe. Maybe we are not as limited as the caveman viewing the world of shadows as we think we are.

Concerning the Intentional viewpoint, consider this. Time and space are bounded as if within a sphere where a single point is the big bang and a second point on its opposite pole, the big crunch. Hawkings envisions all time and space so bounded, the implications being that there is no ‘elsewhere’ for there to be an external creator and thus leaves us with the question ‘Can there really be a God/creator?’
Harvard grad, Richard Elliot Friedman, in the Hidden Face of God describes this and formulates how certain concepts in Kabbalah closely resemble modern cosmology. He posits that we do not need and external creator as Hawking suggests. Rather there is a Kabbalistic conception of God who INHERES in the universe. Unlike pantheism, God is not just the sum of the parts of the universe. Rather the universe is an outward emanation of God. To ‘find’ God we shouldn’t look elsewhere, rather look IN the universe itself. And how do we look? By using ALL the tools of our intellect (and consciousness), ranging from observation, logic, deduction, to meditation and introspection.

B. Spinoza said...

>So the universe itself is bound by the rules inside it? Even a seed's expression is bound by the rules set before and outside of it.

there is no outside the universe. The seed example was just an analogy, obviously the seed and the universe are very different. It is, however, interesting to note that I read in Schroeder's book that the Ramban said that the universe started out as small as a mustard seed. He must have felt that the seed analogy was a good one too :)

>Basically, your explanation for the universe being the way it is is that "that's just the way it is." Not very satisfying.

I'm sorry, I don't know any satisfying answers. If you know of a better way to understand it, let me know

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