An Atheistic Evolutionary Metaphysics

by Eric Steinhart

Here’s an argument for an evolutionary metaphysics: (1) Our universe is very complex and congenial (it is lawful; it starts in a low entropy state; its laws are finely tuned for the planetary evolution of life, etc.). (2) Anything that is very complex and congenial requires an explanation. (3) The best explanations for the existence of complex congenial things are evolutionary. (4) So, by inference to the best explanation, our universe is the result of an evolutionary process which tends to increase complexity and congeniality.

According to this argument, our universe is generated by a process of super-cosmic evolution. Super-cosmic evolution starts with some initial universe. This universe exists necessarily and does not depend on anything else for its existence. The initial universe produces some more complex and congenial versions of itself. Once started, this process of universe-evolution is self-sustaining and self-amplifying. Each universe in any generation produces some more complex and more congenial successor universes. These successor universes populate the next generation of universes. The result is a series of generations of universes. Here’s the rule: for every universe, for every way to make that universe more complex and congenial, there exists a successor universe that is more complex and congenial in that way. From generation to generation, the successor relation defines a growing tree of universes. As the tree grows, the universes in the tree become more complex and congenial. Eventually, our universe appears.

To avoid misunderstandings, it’s worth pointing out that this evolutionary metaphysics is not Darwinian. Universes are not organisms that make babies either asexually or sexually. There is no struggle for survival, no survival of the fittest. And, given the long pre-Darwinian history of the term “evolution”, it’s fair to use that term.

This evolutionary metaphysics posits lots of universes (lots of “cosmoi”) that come both before and after our universe. So, if this evolutionary story is true, and if the term “Cosmos” refers to our universe, then Sagan’s statement that “The Cosmos is all that is and ever was and ever will be” is false. But that’s not very relevant.

This evolutionary metaphysics is obviously highly speculative. But a Dictionary Atheist shouldn’t have a problem with that. All the Dictionary Atheist cares about is that the story doesn’t involve God. And this evolutionary metaphysics is utterly God-free. You can easily raise lots of objections to this evolutionary metaphysics. But none of those objections will flow from atheism. For atheists who don’t like this evolutionary metaphysics, the challenge is to come up with a better story (which, obviously, must explain the complexity and congeniality of our universe). Go for it.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.