The Well-Tempered Universe

Atheists are sure they are the winners either way:

- If religion is a natural phenomenon, explicable in terms of neuroscience and biology, then it loses the supernatural element that has been its historic focus.
- If religion is “unnatural”, then it seems to lie outside of the sphere of that which can be proven, or even discussed rationally.

Religious believers are sure they are the winners either way:

- If the appearance of life is scientifically inexplicable, then God must have done it.
- If the appearance of life is scientifically explicable, then the fine-tuning necessary to bring that about through natural processes points to a creator.

How do we get out of an impasse in which both sides seem not to realize that, in the end, their viewpoints are founded on impressions of reality and metaphysical convictions that cannot be proven to their opponents? Speaking of a personal creator whose existence is inexplicable is no more and no less obvious and self-explanatory than a multiverse that just happens to exist and, thanks to its inexplicably being infinite, inevitably produces a universe that can support life, in which we happen to be.

An even more interesting line of inquiry, in my opinion, is to ask what metaphors and symbols we can use to do justice to our existence in a universe that seems “finely tuned” to be just at the border of meaning and meaninglessness, order and chaos, despair and hope, lonely emptiness and powerful interconnectedness. How do we do justice to the fact that people can perceive this same universe, and their place in it, in diametrically-opposed ways?

Are there any genuinely new images of and symbols for God that do justice to what we currently know? Many people turn to other traditions in light of our progressing scientific knowledge, but where are the creative new ideas in theology that do not simply reshuffle existing concepts and language, but offer new metaphors?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03126711689901268060 Quixie

    Fine tuned? I don’t know about that.But that last question is a very good one.I wonder, if McLuhan was right about the medium being the message, what this means in relation to our evolving mythologies on the grand scale. It would be hard in a digital age to be impressed by metaphor like we used to be. How would the new “prophet” begin to do her thing without being immediately being accused of demagoguery? People need miracles, but they keep getting scarcer and scarcer. The only miracles that persist seem to be esthetic ones. Are we stuck with Hollywood? (or alternately, Sundance?)Will the talkies give way to the feelies?(close thought bubble)

  • G3

    It seems quite impossible for a neuroscientist to show an actual correlation between a brain state and a mental experience. The fact that there is an associated brain state with certain religious experiences–prayer for instance–is not equivalent to an explanation of religion. This is analogous to explanations of consciousness from matter and energy that fail to show correlation and fail on the binding problem. So I think you have presented a false dilemma.
    Further, theists do not hang their hat on an argument of silence, namely that science has not discovered an origin of life. While it is problematic that biologists have not been able to provide an example of how life can arise to form a metabolizing, reproducing, mutable, structures, this is just the tail of the tiger–the problem gets worse as the entire teleological problem is unwrapped. From physical constants that are fine tuned beyond on part in 10^150, to the size and locations of our planet about the ‘just right’ sun, to the completely improbable coding of biology on DNA. Additionally there are even better the Kalaam & Thomas Aquinas cosmological arguments, axiological arguments, argument from consciousness, and the fact that science cannot rule out miracles–seems like these would have a bearing as well.
    The theistic view point seems to be a God of the gaps argument, which I think is a straw man, when in actuality, it seems that atheistic naturalism faces an obvious evolution of the gaps problem. Evolution explains everything from selflessness to morphology–just because it could happen and they do not allow other explanations. The question “is this artifact or phenomena designed” is a fascinating question and can be framed in a way that does not subvert science, even if a positive answer potentially invokes a non-naturalistic source.