RESOLVING THE GOLDILOCKS ENIGMA – AN EVIDENCE BASED APROACH
Published in philoso.philica.com
THE GOLDILOCKS QUESTION
Paul Davies asks: "Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?" He produces a significant amount of evidence of the life-friendly tendency of the Universe but he fails to propose an answer to the Goldilocks question based on this evidence. There is sufficient evidence to provide a reasoned answer. I propose such an answer in my Thesis, published as "The Process of the Cosmos: Philosophical Theology and Cosmology" (1999)
Davies is on the right track when he suggests that for an intelligent designer: "to select a set of laws that, without any periodic fixing up and micro-management, can bring a universe into being and bring about self-organisation, self-complexification and self-assembly of life and consciousness - well, that looks very clever indeed!" I argue in "The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos" and in "The Process of the Cosmos" that these autonomous processes exist by design.
On the God question Davies argues: "Unless there is already some other reason to believe in the existence of the Great Designer then merely declaring ‘God did it!' tells us nothing at all. It simply plugs one gap - the mystery of cosmic bio-friendliness - with another - the mystery of an unknown intelligent designer. So we are no further forward." (2006, 226) But is this the case?
There is good reason to believe in a self-existent entity as designer. The intelligent design of the Cosmos provides evidence of the nature and motive of the designer, as well as a criterion by which more primitive concepts of the designer might be judged. Consideration of the designer's possible motive for creation can make sense of the universe and of our role in the universe. There is far too much evidence for the intelligent designer to be considered a complete mystery.
Davies considers two responses to the Goldilocks question, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic idea of an interventionist God and the sceptical counter-proposal of a Multiverse, which argues this universe is "just right" because it is only one among many universes, the totality of which exhaust every logical possibility of organisation. I will show that both these alternatives are problematic.
The idea of an interventionist "hands on" God is part of the ancient baggage that the concept of God carries. I examine the origin of this concept and seek to replace it with the more rational concept of a God who is necessarily "hands-off" the Universe.
WHAT KIND OF GOD?
The concept of a "hands-off" God is based on the evidence that the Universe is a freely operating but purposeful process, constituted by a series of freely operating Emergent Stages. In "The Process of the Cosmos" I consider God's possible motives for creation. I develop the concept of a "hands-off" God, based on the evidence of increasing freedom at each Emergent Stage of the Cosmic process and the complete freedom reached at the Human Moral-Cultural Emergent Stage.
As the pre-scientific concept of God developed over time, new features tended to be grafted on to old concepts that people were reluctant to discard. The earliest gods were all "hands-on", as they were personifications of natural phenomena and forces that were necessarily active in the world. The monotheistic God of Judaism is theologically a more sophisticated concept than earlier multiple deities, but the concept originated as an active tribal Deity, protecting the Hebrews and killing their enemies.
The Christian Church identified itself and its teaching with the God of the Hebrews from the beginning, tying itself to the categories and concepts of the Old Testament. J.N.D. Kelly notes that Christian theology took place in predominantly Judaistic moulds until the middle of the second century, utilising Jewish categories of thought. (1960, 17)
The Judaeo-Christian concept of an interventionist Deity becomes even stronger in Islam. Islam is a Christian heresy, a perversion of Christian doctrine, as Hilaire Belloc shows in Chapter 4 of "The Great Heresies" (1991). The God of Islam is a reversion to the tribal God that protects the tribe and kills the tribe's enemies.
Christianity also adopted an interpretation of God's creative role which Judaism had derived from ancient Mesopotamia. This interpretation held that God created all things, bringing them into existence out of nothing. It also held that God governs the whole universe, exercising an all-pervading control and sovereignty. (Kelly 1960, 83)
Initiation of the universe out of nothing was a brilliant insight, but it is not difficult to find the origin of the concept of detailed control in the ancient Mesopotamian tyrannies. The effect Mesopotamian myth had on biblical cosmogonies has been detailed by Clifford (1988).
THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNBELIEF
In Baechler's view, the most significant consequence of this ancient intellectual paradigm is the present triumph of unbelief. He argues that unbelief could not have triumphed unless people had been driven to seek another basis for the order of the world. This need arose from the failure of the religious understanding of the world to maintain its relevance. Science now provides a more acceptable basis for the order of the world. The scientific order of nature has been gradually endowed with greater precision, scope and depth, enabling science to take the place of faith in explaining the world. The apparent rationality of science appeals to the mind of Western man, while the violation of rationality that is implied in some religious teaching, tends to repel. (1975, 90-1)
In 1926, Alfred North Whitehead pointed to the fact that religion had been on the defensive in Europe for over two centuries. These centuries had been marked by significant intellectual progress in every field except Theology.
Whenever a scientific discovery caused people to reassess old ideas, it was hailed as a triumph for science, but it often created a problem for theologians because of the association of theology with an outdated imagery.
Arthur Koestler quoted Whitehead's views a generation later. He stated that the need for religion to abandon its pre-scientific world view had become even more urgent. Koestler noted that the world in which Christianity had been established was a closed world of comfortable dimensions, in which a well ordered drama, with a simple outline, a clear beginning and an end, was taking its pre-ordained course. (1959, 538-53)
In the same year that Koestler quoted Whitehead's words, Pope John 23rd announced his intention to call an Ecumenical Council. When the Council opened on 11th October 1962, the Pope stated that the whole world expected a leap forward in doctrinal penetration, a new presentation of the substance of ancient doctrine.
The Pope also pointed out that world-views change from age to age and that the errors of the past often vanish "like fog before the sun". (Wiltgen 1967, 14-15)
The Pope's expectation of a new leap forward has not been met, although the Council noted in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, (Introduction, 5) that "the human race has passed from a rather static concept of reality to a more dynamic, evolutionary one". It also noted that this new concept of reality had given rise to a new series of problems, "a series as important as can be". The Council then called for "new efforts of analysis and synthesis" to attack these problems. Such efforts are still rare.
Koestler noted that in the past, Religion provided meaningful explanations for everything that happened. This world-view was unchallenged before 1600 AD. The present scientific world-view, by contrast, appears to have mankind's destiny determined from below, by sub-human agencies such as glands, genes and atoms. As a result Koestler considered that mankind had entered a spiritual ice-age, in which the established Churches provided no shelter. (1959, 548-51)
Another significant development is the pattern of thinking of contemporary Western man. David Jenkins calls this the thinking of post-Copernican man. For post-Copernican man, as new knowledge is gained, it changes our understanding. (1965, 66) Post-Copernican man has a dynamic approach to knowledge. He is not bothered by the fact that yesterday's theory, whether in physics, biology, cosmology or any other discipline, has just been overthrown and replaced by a better developed theory.
Our view of the world has changed dramatically since Cosmology became a science, but the religious picture from the past has remained frozen in place. The ancient paradigm persists, built upon God's all-pervading control, but Religion no longer provides meaningful explanations for everything that happens. A more critical mind-set now finds fault with the religious explanations which satisfied earlier generations. There is a need for a better theory of the relationship between God and the world, but we first have to consider whether there is any evidence to support the alternative proposal of a Multiverse.
There is a total absence of evidence of a Multiverse, so little time should be wasted on this concept. As other Universes would have to exist in other areas of space-time - should any such exist - there could never be any evidence of them available to us. As there is and there can be no available evidence, Multiple Universes are simply a matter of faith, red herrings from an evidentiary perspective.
A Multiverse is a logical possibility but this does not make it a real, ontological possibility. Any supposed entity that is not self-contradictory is logically possible, but only real entities are ontologically possible. It is a logical possibility that I am writing this, or you are reading it, on a train line and there is a train only seconds away. If this was an ontological possibility, rather than a logical possibility, this is where we stop. But we continue.
It does not make sense for the idea of an interventionist God, which originated as a reasonable but unscientific explanation of the world in pre-scientific times, to be replaced in the present scientific context by a purely speculative belief with no possible evidentiary foundation, the idea of a Multiverse. The postulation of a Multiverse, based upon the premise that it is logically possible, appears to be nothing more than a device to avoid a more serious consideration of the role of an intelligent designer or God.
THE QUESTION OF ORIGIN
What is needed to resolve the issue of the origin of the life-friendly Universe is a rational, evidence-based approach to the origin of the cosmic process that began with the Big Bang. There is ample evidence of this process available, as Paul Davies shows.
There are only two possible answers to the question of the origin of any contingent entity. Either the entity is contingent upon some other contingent thing or things, and so on ad infinitum, or there is somewhere a point of origin, a self-existent, non-contingent entity responsible for the existence of contingent entities.
Aristotle considered this question and concluded that there had to be a non-contingent, self-existent entity, a God, to account for contingent things. This conclusion created a problem for Aristotle because he also reasoned that a perfect God would only produce another perfect entity.
The concept of a self-existent entity cannot be rejected on the basis that what is postulated of a self-existent entity is inconsistent with what is known of the existence of contingent entities. To do so constitutes a category mistake. Paul Davies makes this mistake when he asks "Who designed the designer?" (2006, 228)
The present problem with the conventional Judeo-Christian idea of God is not with the concept of a self-existent entity as such, but with the pre-critical and pre-scientific concept of an interventionist God. I have discussed the origin and development of the idea of an interventionist God. We now need to consider a more critical, evidence based concept of God.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
As shown in "The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos" (2006), 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 with the Big Bang. As Martin Rees explains in his "Just Six Numbers" (2000) "Mathematical laws underpin the fabric of our universe - not just atoms, but galaxies, stars and people… . 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)
These Mathematical Constants provide the information that ultimately informs the laws of nature of the various Emergent Stages. The Mathematical Constants pre-exist by millennia the development of the Emergent Stages to which they eventually apply. This evidence of intelligent design is difficult to explain away.
LAWS OF NATURE
Laws of nature are not prescriptive laws. They do not make things happen. They are simply statements of observed regularities at the various Emergent stages, which distinguish the stages. A new Emergent Stage, with its new laws, becomes possible when some matter or aspect of an existing Emergent Stage develops to a degree that makes it capable of utilising or expressing a previously unexpressed aspect of the information that the Mathematical Constants make available.
Davies suggests that for an intelligent designer: "to select a set of laws that, without any periodic fixing up and micro-management, can bring a universe into being and bring about self-organisation, self-complexification and self-assembly of life and consciousness - well, that looks very clever indeed!" (2006, 226) I argue that the intelligent designer does not even have to select the laws.
The development of each stage of the process of Emergent Evolution is free. The information provided by the Mathematical Constants is sufficient to freely initiate a new Emergent stage when this becomes possible. Thus life emerges when some matter develops to a form that makes it capable of expressing the information that establishes the laws of life. These laws reflect the capacity of living matter to develop and to evolve, involving the process of Emergent Probability. (For a discussion of Emergent Probability see for example, "Emergent Probability and the Anthropic Principle" Vicente Marasigan, 2000)
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 is 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.
This gradual process of human self-development is outlined in "The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos" (2006). The aim of the process has been summarised by Bernard Lonergan: "Man's development is a matter of getting beyond himself, of transcending himself, of ceasing to be an animal in a habitat and of becoming a genuine person in a community." (1974, 144)
The next Emergent stage, Human Moral-Cultural life, emerges when some individuals develop their cognitive ability to a stage that enables them to cognise the Moral law, and these moral perceptions begin to have an effect within their culture. This is the beginning of human spiritual self-creation. It is no longer merely self-development. It is the creation of something new.
THE EMERGENT PROCESS
Matter is the first Emergent, produced from the energy and some of the information provided by the Mathematical Constants. In a Universe wide, freely operating process of self-organisation, Hydrogen, the initial form of matter, develops into the other elements, and combinations of elements. Solar systems with planets are formed. At least one planet which is capable of supporting life is eventually produced by this freely operating, self-organising process. Given the size of the cosmos and the unlimited availability of time, such an outcome appears inevitable. Earth is such a planet.
Life becomes the second Emergent when some matter on a life-friendly planet, or planets, develops to a stage that makes it capable of expressing some previously unexpressed aspect of the information provided by the Mathematical Constants imprinted into the Big Bang. Life begins to freely evolve. Evolution is a further process of free self-organisation.
Each new species that evolves has its own pattern of instinctive behaviour, which differentiates it from the species from which it evolved. New species are usually better adapted to their environment, suggesting that new species may be a genetic response to a prevailing environment. Perhaps so-called "junk DNA" has a role in this response, as Professor John Mattick of Queensland University has suggested (2001).
Life evolves from its initial bacterial forms to a series of large-brained Hominids. There is very little variation in the instinctive activities of these Hominids. The most recent Hominid species to evolve are Homo neanderthalis, some 230,000 years ago and Homo sapiens, some 160,000 years ago. Both these evolve as species of animals, not as humans.
Homo sapiens' brain has not changed since the species evolved, but the species has developed a mind in a process of self-development, as distinct from self-organisation. This process of self-development gradually changes Homo sapiens from a hominid to a human. The human mind is a product of the process of cognitive self-development, which I outline in "The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos" (2006).
THE EMERGENT STAGES
Samuel Alexander, in his "Space, Time and Deity" (1920) distinguishes the Emergent Stages of reality on the basis that each Emergent Stage had its own specific level of natural law. Alexander showed that each Emergent stage is based on the previous Emergent Stage, operates according to the same laws of nature as the previous Emergent Stage, but also operates in accordance with its own new level of natural law. He postulated four Emergent stages, Matter, Life, Mind and Moral Personality.
Nicolai Hartmann, in his "New Ways of Ontology" (1953) distinguished four ontological strata of reality; the physical, the biological or organic, the conscious or psychic and the spiritual or moral. His four ontological strata correspond to Alexander's Emergent Stages of Matter, Life, Conscious Life and Moral Personality.
Hartmann notes that mankind is the only real being in which all four of the ontological strata of reality are found. He was the first to recognise the pattern of an increase in freedom at each of the ontological strata of reality, and the total freedom that was achieved at the human moral or spiritual stratum.
Hartmann was an atheist. He did not accept that there were any disembodied spiritual entities. For Hartmann, spirit is the specifically human in the human being, in contrast to the individual's other material, organic and mental or psychic aspects. He also argues that individual humans grow into a common spiritual sphere which is more than the sum of the individuals which comprise it, a sphere of historical or objective spirit. Beliefs, convictions and ways of viewing things can also be shared, and all of these belong to the sphere of the spirit. While consciousness separates people, Hartmann maintains that the spirit unites them.
CULTURE AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT
Hartmann distinguishes three forms of spirit, personal spirit, objective spirit and objectified spirit. Objective spirit is temporal, but it has a history, so it is not limited to a single lifetime. It is the spirit of a living group, a community or nation, which exists and vanishes with the group. This common spiritual sphere is the fundamental basis of any human culture. Personal spirit occupies a unique position as it can see within itself, as self-consciousness demonstrates.
While the individual organism unfolds as determined by its DNA, the individual personal spirit always has to make itself what it is. As with consciousness, it comes into being anew in every individual and, Hartmann maintains, it is not inherited. Spirit is not the unfolding of what is already given but it is developed, as practical wisdom, only by the individual's efforts. (Werkmeister 1990, 162)
Human spiritual consciousness, Hartmann argues, only begins with man's escape from the tyranny of instincts, and is ultimately realised with his achievement of an objective relationship to the world. The subject-object relationship is regarded by Hartmann as the characteristic creation of spirit. In its objectification of things and events, the subject-object relationship is what gives meaning to the world.
The human individual is thus a creative factor in the world, in a process in which he is both forming and being formed. Humans create the forms and structures of a new stratum of being, a world of spirit in a previously spiritless world, and in the process emerge as persons. Personality, Hartmann argues, is the basic characteristic of the spiritual being. The world exists for a person in a more profound way than just as an object for a subject. The person is not only aware of events, he is actively involved in them, and he contributes to his own formation by his activities. (Werkmeister 1990, 163-5)
The individual also enters into relationships of shared experiences with other persons, of joint action and solidarity, and of common responsibility. In doing this he transcends his mere subjectivity. In his relationship to others he becomes more aware, from their reactions to him, of the bases of his own actions. He grows in his self-knowledge in this process, although, Hartmann maintains, he seldom knows himself fully. All man's initiatives, effective interventions and creativity, rely upon the knowledge of self, which Socrates challenged man to acquire. (Werkmeister 1990, 165-7)
EMERGENCE AND FREEDOM
The initial provision in the Big Bang of Time, Energy and in particular, of the Mathematical Constants, enables the process of Emergent Evolution to operate, which makes the process of human spiritual and cultural self-creation possible. Alexander's Emergent stage of Moral Personality - otherwise Hartmann's spiritual or moral stratum - is made possible by that part of the information provided by the Mathematical Constants that informs the Moral Law.
Every Emergent Stage operates with a degree of freedom but the Third Emergent Stage, which I identify as the Human Moral-Cultural Stage, operates with complete freedom in relation to the law of the stage, the Moral Law. The process of Emergent Evolution thus appears to have both direction and purpose, but it also appears that its purpose can only be achieved with freedom and through the exercise of freedom. Increasing freedom thus appears to be an essential aspect of the Cosmic Process.
In their natural theology, as Patrick Madigan (1988) noted, the classical Greek philosophers were able to argue their way up from the existence of contingent things, to the necessity of a self-existent, perfect being, or God. They had far greater difficulty in arguing their way back down again. A self-existent, perfect being was necessary for the existence of contingent things, but such a being should be able to create a perfect world. Why then did this imperfect world exist? An unnecessary and imperfect world, contingent upon a perfect God, should not exist. What was needed to resolve this antinomy was some account which provided a motive, or a sufficient reason, for God to make an imperfect world.
The disparity between a perfect God and an imperfect world is the greatest obstacle to an understanding the role of God in relation to the world. Christian philosophers maintained that the motive for God to create the world was love of man. But Aristotle had already provided an argument which counted against this proposed solution.
Aristotle analysed friendship, which is an essential aspect of love. He found that love and friendship has to be reciprocal, and could be based on goodness, pleasure or utility. Friendship based on pleasure or utility is transient, and Aristotle argues that the only real and lasting love, or friendship, can be between those who are good, and who resemble one another in their goodness. (Ethics 1156b) Resemblance in goodness is the crux of the matter. Because he could find no resemblance in goodness between God and man, Aristotle denied the possibility of friendship or love between the self-existent God and man. (Ethics 1159b)
ARISTOTLE'S ANTINOMY AND ITS RESOLUTION
Aristotle could not resolve the problem of the failure of the self-existent God to produce a perfect world. This antinomy could not be resolved from the static, Aristotelian perspective but it can now be resolved from a process perspective, understanding the cosmos as a process of linear development. Aristotle did not have this category available to him. His concept of process was based on the circular biological model.
We have the evidence of the processes of Big Bang cosmology, of biological evolution and of the phenomenon of Emergent Evolution, each of which is an extended linear process. From our process perspective we can understand our imperfect world as simply one stage in a cosmic process, a process which could lead to the production of a more perfect entity, one which is similar to God in goodness, in creativity and in mode of existence.
I argue in "The Process of the Cosmos" (1999) that as the self-existent God can have no needs, God's only possible motive for creation is to make possible the self-creation of an entity that is similar to God and appropriate for God to love. God cannot directly create such an entity. God can only create creatures. The only way such an entity could come to be is for that entity to be self-created in those aspects of its being that make it similar to God, aspects such as creativity and goodness.
It requires a self-existent intelligent designer to set in train a process that could produce an entity with the capacity to self-develop beyond the limitations of instinct and eventually to self-create in a new, spiritual dimension.
Intervention by God in the process would frustrate the objective of self-creation. God would have to be "hands-off" the process, which would have to operate freely. The question is whether the cosmos, from the Big Bang on, can be understood as such a process?
A process comprises a series of stages leading to a product. The universe has developed through a series of Emergent stages. Each one of these Emergent stages is built upon the previous stage, is more complex than its predecessor and has a greater degree of freedom to develop, to evolve or to self-create.
THE SELF-DEVELOPMENT OF HUMANITY
The self-existent God initiates the cosmic process, providing the Time, the Energy and the Mathematical Constants that could eventually lead to the evolution of large-brained animals somewhere in the Cosmos. Such large brained animals would have the cognitive capacity to develop a mind, but this could only occur by a process involving both self-development and self-creation.
All life instinctively accesses the information that is necessary for survival. There is no understanding involved in this instinctive process. It is the pursuit of understanding that distinguishes humans from animals. Homo sapiens achieve this distinction by using their cognitive capacities to acquire and utilize information beyond the instinctive information that is necessary for their survival. In seeking not merely to survive, but to understand and make sense of their experience, Homo sapiens begin to develop a mind, becoming human in the process.
Eventually some humans begin to become aware of the moral values that find their expression in the Moral Law. In the history of Homo sapiens this is a very recent development, as Bruno Snell shows in "The Discovery of the Mind in Greek Philosophy and Literature" (1982). Snell argues that Socrates is the first Greek teacher of morality. I argue in "The Process of the Cosmos" that morality first develops among the Hebrews. I contrast the moral development of Hesiod and Hosea, who were approximate contemporaries.
As Kohlberg has shown, principled morality based on the human capacity to make principled moral decisions is still extremely rare. Morality is a spiritual development. Once humans begin to become moral they have begun the task of making themselves similar to God in goodness. We are involved in this self-creating process. God is not. God is necessarily "hands-off" the world, which is our "do-it-yourself" kit.
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