The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos
Published in philoso.philica.com
As Martin Rees explains, the present state of the Universe, including our life-friendly planet and life itself, is a product of certain precise Mathematical Constants that were imprinted into the Cosmos at the time of the Big Bang. The laws of nature are one function of these Mathematical Constants. If any one of these Constants had varied even slightly then there could be no stars, no planets and no life. As Mathematics is a product of mind, the Cosmos would appear to be a product of mind, an intelligent design. Martin Rees, in his "Just Six Numbers" (2000) sets out to provide an alternative to this obvious inference.
The Cosmos began with the Big Bang. Two explanations of the origin of the Big Bang are to be considered here. One is that the Big Bang is a product of intelligent design. The other is that the Big Bang is just one of a great number of such events, which give rise to multiple distinct universes, with different laws of nature. This is the position favoured by Martin Rees in his "Just Six Numbers" (2000).
Rees does not explain why a large number of universes would necessarily vary from one another. He appears to assume that the beginning of any universe is a matter of chance, and that in any large number of similar events there will be unexplained "chance" variability. Is this really the case?
We all know what chance is. If a coin is tossed we believe that "chance" will determine whether it will fall heads or tails. But that is not really the case. "Chance" can be an admission of ignorance as to all the causal factors of an event. If we construct a machine to provide an identical impetus and angle to the toss of a coin it will fall predictably. Modern mass production frequently relies on this mechanistic predictability.
We all know what Unicorns are, just as we all know what chance is. But neither really exists. Chance and Unicorns are just epistemological concepts, ideas that exist in our minds. They are not ontological realities, entities that really exist. Nicolai Hartmann shows in his "New Ways of Ontology" that "nothing in the world exists by chance in the ontic sense. Everything depends on conditions and occurs only where these are fulfilled. (1953, 70)
Martin Rees suggests we just happen to inhabit the one universe that is habitable among a multitude of universes. However the possible existence of other universes does nothing to explain in any way the origin of our Universe. What has to be considered is whether Rees' contribution to the understanding of our universe supports his view that this universe is "an ‘oasis' in a multiverse" or whether we should, in his words: "seek other reasons for the providential values of our six numbers." (2000, 179)
SCIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE
Science is specialised knowledge. All knowledge stems from the questions we ask in applying the Principle of Sufficient Reason: "Every thing has a reason for being, and for being as it is." This Principle recognises the rationality of the contingent world, and the rational potential of humans. Science relies on this principle.
Some sciences are insightful and experimental while others are observational and insightful. In the first type a scientist has some insight into reality and experimental tests are devised in the effort to test the validity of the insight. In the second type the scientist can make no experiment but can form insights from observations of reality, as Darwin did, or by discovering relationships between other scientists' findings, as Einstein did.
Physical Cosmology is primarily observational and insightful. There is little opportunity for experimental tests. A Philosophical Cosmology goes a step beyond Physical Cosmology. It seeks to understand the reason for the existence of the Cosmos, why it is, why it is the way it is, and why it has developed the way it has. Rees' approach, which deals with the reason for the existence of the Cosmos, is a Philosophical Cosmology. It stands to be tested as such.
Rees is on firm scientific ground when he states: "Mathematical laws underpin the fabric of our universe - not just atoms, but galaxies, stars and people. The properties of atoms - their sizes and masses, how many different kinds there are, and the forces linking them together - determine the chemistry of our everyday world. The very existence of atoms depends on forces and particles deep inside them. The objects astronomers study - planets, stars and galaxies - are controlled by the force of gravity. And everything takes place in the arena of an expanding universe, whose properties were imprinted into it at the time of the initial Big Bang." (2000, 1)
Rees identifies six of these Mathematical Constants as being particularly relevant to the present state of the Cosmos. He notes that: "These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe' for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values, as: "if any one of them were to be ‘untuned', there would be no stars and no life."(2000, 4)
Rees moves into Philosophical Cosmology when he asks "Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?" (2000, 4) He does not deal with the last possibility directly. Instead he proposes that: "An infinity of other universes may well exist where the numbers are different. Most would be stillborn or sterile". (2000, 4)
Rees argues that: "some assumptions, consistent with everything we know, yield many universes that sprout from separate Big Bangs into disjoint regions of space-time". He admits that these: "universes would never be directly observable; we couldn't even meaningfully say whether they existed ‘before' or ‘after' or alongside our own". He also notes that: "The input assumptions that predict multiple universes are still speculative." (2000, 168)
Rees does not detail the "assumptions, consistent with everything we know" that "yield many universes that sprout from separate Big Bangs into disjoint regions of space time". This proposal is reminiscent of speculation in the area of quantum physics. If this is the case Rees is simply making a category mistake, assuming that the facts of one category of reality automatically apply in a different category, or "presenting the facts of one category in the idiom of another" (Ryle, 1949, 8).
Rees adopts the view: "that our six numbers are accidents of cosmic history", a view for which he admits there is, and there can be, no evidence. He admits the absence of evidence, saying his view: "is only a hunch" (2000, 174). A hunch may constitute an insight, but his hunch is not based on either experiment or observation, so it does not appear to qualify as Science, nor, in the absence of supporting argument, does it qualify as Philosophy.
REES' THREE POSSIBILITIES
Altogether Rees suggests three possibilities to account for the Big Bang, (1) a multiplicity of other universes "where the numbers are different", (2) a benign Creator, and (3) a brute fact, which Rees equates with a coincidence. A brute fact is not a coincidence.
A brute fact has been defined as: "a fact that obtains without doing so in virtue of any other facts obtaining" (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy). Every contingent thing obtains by virtue of some other fact obtaining, so any brute fact must be self-existent. A self-existent entity does not require, and by definition cannot have, some other fact in its explanation. A self-existent entity is the only possible brute fact. A self-existent entity is also a reasonable concept of God. This appears to reduce Rees' possibilities to two, a multiverse or a Creator.
There is no evidence of the existence of multiple universes. There is no necessity for multiple universes to explain the existence or the nature of this universe. The application of Occam's razor, "Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity" to Rees' postulate of "multiple universes" should be sufficient to dispose of this postulate. This would leave Rees' other option, the action of a creative God as the best explanation of the beginning of the Cosmos. Rees misinterprets Occam's razor as: "a bias in favour of ‘simple' cosmologies", (2000, 172-3) whereas it is essentially a principle of ontological economy, one original formulation of which is: "What can be done with fewer assumptions is done in vain with more."
Rees admits that if multiple universes did exist, we would never be able to know anything about them. His postulate of the existence of multiple but unknowable universes simply avoids the primary philosophical question of the nature and purpose of our universe. His view that this universe is "an ‘oasis' in a multiverse" is completely without foundation. We should therefore, in his words: "seek other reasons for the providential values of our six numbers." (2000, 179)
Evidence that the Big Bang began a purposeful process within the Cosmos could indicate that the Cosmos was initiated for a purpose. So is there any evidence that the cosmos exhibits a purpose, which could explain the providential values of these six numbers? What is known of Cosmic development since the Big Bang?
The Big Bang was a complex event that would appear to have required an intelligent cause. It was the beginning of Time and the provision of the Energy and the Information that make the present Cosmos possible. This Information is a product of the Mathematical Constants identified by Rees, which find their ultimate expression in the laws of nature. Rees' identification of this consequence of the Mathematical Constants provides support for the conclusions I reached in my 1998 Thesis, "The Process of the Cosmos". This argued that the Cosmos freely develops in a series of stages, through the process of Emergent Evolution, involving both material and biological self-organisation and human self-creation.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TIME
Even if the beginning of this Cosmos could be understood as a "chance" event, we would still have to ask how to account for the beginning of Time. Rees appears to take the existence of time for granted, even though there was no such thing as Time "before" the Big Bang. Time has an essential role to play in the process of the Cosmos.
Without Time there could be no process, no evolution and no human self-development. All processes, including the process of Emergent Evolution, depend upon the existence of Time, which enables the Energy of the Big Bang and the Information provided by the Mathematical Constants to interact to develop both Matter and Life and to provide the laws of nature of the various Emergent Stages.
The unlimited Time available for the Cosmos to develop, and the extent of the material Universe, are sufficient to ensure that at some time, in some part of the Cosmos, at least one life-friendly planet will develop from the random processes of material self-organization. Earth is such a planet. These processes are random in the sense that the intersection of a range of physical laws, in different material circumstances, gives rise to different outcomes. Randomness is not synonymous with "chance". Other known planets are products of the same matter and forces as Earth, but they are all different from planet Earth. However other life-friendly planets, in other solar systems within the Cosmos, are clearly possible.
Samuel Alexander, in his "Space, Time and Deity" (1920) distinguished each new Emergent stage on the basis of it operating according to a new level of natural law. He showed that each Emergent stage is based on the previous Emergent stage, is subject to the same laws of nature as the previous stage, but is also subject to a new level of natural law. These natural laws are not prescriptive laws. They do not make things happen. They are simply statements of observed regularities at the various Emergent stages.
The relation between the Mathematical Constants and the laws of nature provides the basis of a better explanation of the phenomenon of Emergent Evolution than the one I proposed in my Thesis. I am indebted to Rees for this. The existence of these Mathematical Constants, and their role in initiating the laws of nature, takes the mystery out of the phenomenon of Emergence. The relation between the Mathematical Constants and the laws of nature indicates that a new Emergent Stage, with its new laws of nature, becomes possible when an existing Emergent Stage develops to a degree that makes it capable of expressing a previously unexpressed aspect of the Information that was provided by the Mathematical Constants. This newly expressed Information initiates a new Emergent Stage, with its own new laws of nature.
Alexander postulated four Emergent stages, Matter, Life, Mind and Moral Personality. Alexander considered that Mind could be regarded as an Emergent when it manifested consciousness. I would limit these Emergent stages to three, understanding the Mind of Homo sapiens to be a product of Hominid self-development rather than a new Emergent stage with its own new stage of natural law. Alexander distinguished intelligent life from instinctive life, but we now recognize that any distinction between forms of life is simply a matter of degree.
Homo sapiens' cognitive self-development does not involve the introduction of a new Emergent stage with new laws of nature. The Emergent stage that follows the emergence of Life is therefore Alexander's stage of Moral Personality. This stage involves the application of a new level of law, the Moral Law. I refer to this Emergent stage as the Moral-Cultural Stage.
THE COSMIC PROCESS
In the Cosmic Process Matter emerges from the Energy and some of the Information provided by the Mathematical Constants. The Physical and Chemical laws of matter are products of the Mathematical Constants. Matter is formed, or In-formed, Energy. Matter is the first Emergent from the Energy and Information of the Big Bang. The first Element formed, Hydrogen, is gradually transmuted into all the Elements of the Periodic Table in the formation and dissolution of Stars. Planetary Solar systems are formed during this process.
Life subsequently emerges as further Informed Matter. Life originates when some combination of Matter, in appropriate circumstances, becomes capable of expressing the Information that establishes the laws of Life. The Genetic laws of Life reflect a previously unexpressed aspect of the Information provided by the Mathematical Constants. Life is the second Emergent. Having emerged on Earth, Life begins to freely evolve.
The products of Evolution are more diverse than the products of the previous Emergent stage of Matter. Evolution relies on natural selection but it also requires the self-organization and subsequent re-organization of the Genome to produce the new life-forms that present for selection. Little is presently known of the mechanics of genomic re-organisation. Perhaps so-called ‘Junk DNA' is the ‘software' that allows these more complex organisms to evolve, as Professor John Mattick of Queensland University has suggested.
All life is capable of detecting information in some form. Primitive life-forms detect only rudimentary information. Each species can instinctively detect the information that is necessary for its survival as a species. As the Evolutionary process continues it produces more complex species, each with the capacity to detect the more extended range of information that is necessary for the more complex species' survival.
The evolutionary process eventually produces large-brained Hominids, including Homo neanderthalis, some 230,000 years ago, and Homo sapiens, some 160,000 years ago. The large-brains of these Hominid species provide the potential for them to develop their information gathering capacity beyond that which was necessary for each species survival. Both these Hominids evolve as species of animals, not as humans.
Homo neanderthalis had larger brains than Homo sapiens, whose brain was indistinguishable from that of modern humans. Homo sapiens' brain has not changed since the species evolved, but the species has developed a mind. The human mind is primarily the result of a process of cognitive self-development, which begins to change Homo sapiens from hominid to human.
THE ORIGIN OF MIND AND THE ROLE OF CULTURE
For more than 100,000 years after the evolution of Homo sapiens, neither Homo neanderthalis nor Homo sapiens appear to have initiated any activity that differed from the instinctive hunting and gathering activities of other earlier Hominids. Some 40,000 years ago Homo sapiens began to show the first unmistakable signs of cognitive and cultural development in the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution. They began to produce better thought-out tools and more significant symbolic representations than previously. They were developing from being a species of animal in a habitat toward becoming human persons in a community, using their cognitive capacities to acquire and utilize information other than the instinctive information that was necessary for their survival as a species. They had begun to develop a mind, seeking to understand and make sense of their experience.
This cognitive self-development led to the creation of the first human cultures. The development of the mind is exemplified in the formation of cultures. A culture is a product of thought, not of evolution. Cultures reflect the development of new forms of activity by individual humans. All cultural development is initially dependent upon individual cognitive self-development, as individuals develop new skills and form new ideas that can influence the individual's culture. Cultures can facilitate or hinder the process of human self-creation. People form and can modify cultures, and cultures, to a significant extent, form the people of the culture.
Cultures can either promote or inhibit the formation of new ideas. A culture which suffers from the affliction of certainty, perhaps because it considers it has "all the answers" can inhibit the questioning of old ideas and so hinder cultural development. There are modern examples of this phenomenon.
Homo neanderthalis, despite having a bigger brain, did not develop any significant new cultural forms. Initially both species, neanderthalis and sapiens, lived similar lives, sometimes in the same environment, demonstrating similar cognitive capacities. But Homo neanderthalis died out at about the same time that Homo sapiens began to develop cultures. Neanderthals appear to have been out-competed by Homo sapiens, who had developed their initial cognitive capacity. This self-development may well have been needed to counter the superior strength and bigger natural brain-power of the Neanderthals.
Millennia later Homo sapiens began to form permanent settlements based on horticulture and agriculture, indicating a further degree of cognitive self-development. Such developments required individual humans to have formed some understanding of the natural processes that led to the production of food, and then to work out how to intervene in such processes to make them more productive. The process of human cognitive self-development, both individual and cultural, continues today, varying from culture to culture. Some human cultures, including Australian Aborigines, still exist at the primitive cognitive stage of hunter-gatherers.
CULTURE AND MORALITY
Every culture is based on some explanation of the world. As T.S. Elliott noted, every culture is the incarnation of a belief-system. Prior to 3,000 years ago no belief-system appeared to have any moral content. Some belief-systems even prescribed immoral activities, including human sacrifice and temple prostitution.
As Bruno Snell shows in "The Discovery of the Mind" (1960), within the last 3,000 years some people, notably the Jews and the Greeks, began to reason critically, and to perceive that human situations have a moral dimension.
It appears that people have to begin to reason critically before they can begin to acquire a moral sensibility. The ability to recognise the physical world as a source of physical information precedes the ability to recognise the moral dimensions of human activity as being related to another form of information, one that initiates another sphere of natural law, the Moral law.
In these cognitive developments the Greek emphasis was on critical thought and Philosophy, the Jewish emphasis on moral action and Theology. Principled moral perceptions are still rare in any culture. Only a minority of people in any culture presently achieve Kohlberg's stage of Principled Morality, indicating direct cognitive awareness of the Information provided by the moral law. Most people still lack this moral-cognitive capacity. Such people base their morality on what their society accepts, hence the importance of cultural belief-systems that enjoin high moral standards.
In the Jewish world people who had moral insights, and expounded them, were called Prophets. The Prophets accounted for their insights, and explained them to others, as their having heard the word of God. In Greece Socrates explained his moral insights similarly. In The Apology he attributes them to "a sort of voice". He says: "you have often heard me say … that I am subject to a divine or supernatural experience … a sort of voice which comes to me", (Plato, 1969, 63-4) Moral insights give expression to a new stage of natural law, The Moral-Cultural Emergent Stage or Samuel Alexander's stage of Moral Personality, based on the Moral Law.
THE INCREASE IN FREEDOM THROUGH THE EMERGENT STAGES
The Emergent Process is characterised by increasing freedom. There is a degree of freedom at the Emergent stages of Matter and Life. Both Stages are free to develop by self-organisation, within the parameters established by the Mathematical Constants. Galaxies, Solar systems and the Elements of the Periodic Table develop at the Emergent Stage of Matter. A wide range of living forms evolve at the Stage of Life. However total freedom is only attained at the human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage.
Freedom appears to be essential to the Cosmic Process. The initial provision of Time, Energy and the Mathematical Constants made all subsequent cosmic developments possible, but did not mandate them. The result is a rational series of Emergent stages with increasing freedom at each Emergent stage. The Cosmic Process appears to have both direction and purpose, but it appears that any purpose can only be achieved with freedom and through the exercise of freedom.
Nicolai Hartmann was the first to note the increase in freedom at each of the ontological strata of reality, and the total freedom that was achieved at the moral or spiritual stratum where "The moral law commands but cannot compel." Hartmann distinguished four ontological strata; the physical, the biological or organic, the conscious or psychic and the spiritual or moral. Man is the only real being in which all four ontological strata are represented. These four strata are similar to Alexander's Emergent Stages of Matter, Life, Conscious Life and Moral Personality.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MORAL-CULTURAL EMERGENT STAGE
Homo sapiens, an evolved animal species, first began to become human by accessing and utilising physical information that was beyond the information necessary for the species survival. This was the beginning of human self-development. Subsequently the accessing and application of moral Information within various cultures began the process of human spiritual self-creation. This was the beginning of the Moral-Cultural Emergent stage.
Each new Emergent stage is based on the previous stage, is subject to the same laws of nature as the previous stage, but is also accompanied by a new level of natural law, which serves to distinguish it from the previous stage. The most recent Emergent stage is the Moral-Cultural stage, the equivalent of Alexander's stage of Moral Personality. The Moral-Cultural stage involves the application of a newly perceived level of law, the Moral Law.
The Moral-Cultural stage is obviously far from complete. As yet only a small minority of people in any culture demonstrate the capacity to make principled moral judgements. The completion of the Moral-Cultural stage in any culture would require the application of the Moral Law to become more widespread. It may only be complete when the Moral Law becomes inherent in individual persons, just as the laws of Physics are inherent in Matter and the laws of Genetics are inherent in Life.
THE PURPOSE OF THE COSMIC PROCESS
In his "Ethics" Hartmann says of mankind: "The creation of the world is not completed so long as he has not fulfilled his creative function in it… The creative work which is incumbent upon him in the world terminates in his self-creation, in the fulfilment of his ethos." (1932, 31) As Hartmann realised, the human individual is: "a creative factor in the world, in a process in which the individual is both forming and being formed. Mankind creates the forms and structures of a new stratum of being, a world of spirit in a previously spiritless world, and in the process the individual emerges as a person." (Werkmeister 1990, 165)
The Cosmic process does not appear to be the series of purposeless events within a mindless multiplicity of Universes that Rees' argument suggests. The Cosmos is clearly designed to operate freely. It develops by material and biological self-organisation, which enables the free evolution of large brained animals. Some of these have the capacity to develop their initial cognitive abilities to the stage where they can become aware of the Moral Law. They can then freely develop their individual creative, spiritual and moral personalities. The Universe appears to exist to make that process of spiritual self-creation possible.
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Information about this Article
Published on Tuesday 14th November, 2006 at 10:27:22.
Peer review added 16th November, 2006 at 14:11:34
I will concentrate on three claims in this review.
added 19th November, 2006 at 07:11:41
Additional peer comment added 19th November, 2006 at 17:30:42
I believe the presence of these “old texts” are indeed relevant. The author has written “Prior to to 3,000 years ago no belief-system appeared to have any moral content.” This is the crux of the author’s developmentalist argument that morality emerged from humanity. The fact that it is quite easy to cite numerous counterexamples—indeed, it is not easy to find any text prior to 1000 BC that is *not* moral in tone—has a great deal of bearing on our claims about the emergence of morality.
added 20th November, 2006 at 01:44:36
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