Saturday, 21 June 2008

Existence and Transience

It pains me to say this but some of the articles in the latest Modern Believing strike me as rather weak: specifically I refer to 'Applied Theology for the Retired Minister in Secular Employment (MSE)' by Dorrie Johnson and 'The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion' by Barney Hawkins and Ian Markham. They lack any depth, somehow. I started to be disappointed with 'Reflections on the Craig-Flew Debate' by Paul Badham but changed my mind as I read through it.

William Lane Craig is a person who attaches the possibility of a transcendent creation to a whole range of Christian dogma that lends the scientific argument incredible again, whereas Anthony Flew has moved with evidence from absolute atheism to some fine tuned origins for a sustainable universe and leaves it with the most powerful claim-based position in evidence and argument. This is Paul Badham's sympathy.

I just don't think the argument is pushed hard enough, however. Here is the key Muslim based Kalam Cosmological Argument used by Craig for starters:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The Universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore the Universe has a cause. (page 4 of the .PDF)

Of course all this argument tells us is that there is no beginning, until one introduces a rule that one thing beginningless is a God. That stops the movement backwards.

The fine tuning argument is then necessary, as this is evidence based. Or at least a mathematical conundrum. The Craig argument is:

  • The fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe must be due to either law, chance or design.
  • It is not due to either law or chance.
  • Therefore it is due to design. (page 7 of the .PDF)

The Modern Believing article continues that H. Everett counters that an infinite number of universes allows one to exist that has these finite conditions, and then Paul Davies says an infinite divided by 1 is zero (surely very very nearly zero), and Craig then applies Occam's Razor for the simpler explanation of design. It runs through to Keith Ward saying just as the philosophers remove design the physicist brings it back in. Others remain atheistic or, if allowing for some intelligent base, disconnect it from the Bronze Age formed myth of Judaism and on to Christianity.

It seems to me that this argument is not exhausted. You can shuffle a pack and lay out 52 cards plus jokers and say what is the chance of that happening, then the answer is precisely the same as all the other arrangements possible but this is the one we have got. This is where we are. If a rule exists that one display of the pack may stay and the others fold, and in the latter display we start the clock, then all the others should fail to exist and there is no time element involved. Not for the player.

There is however some sort of a condition of other existence that, on the causal principle, allows these ever happening unsustainable universes to pop into life and vanish again. This may be related to (but need not be) the phenomenon inside our universe where, at a quantum level, borrowing takes place with an almost instant payback, via a self-annihilating positive and negative division, but should something positive not quite pay back when the negative does then you are left with energy and existence. Black hole event horizons have this effect as black holes get less heavy and start to reduce. Time is particular to this universe.

Of course there could be a dimension of existence that is steady state (and atheistic, on Craig's rule) whilst universes pop into and out of existence, and we will never know (being inside one of them). That may be a God-equivalent, but it has little to do with God being a person or with connections as identified by any one religion. All this dimension has to do is give the causal condition for potential sustainability at one level, not sustainability across the board ever after. After all, we live on a Goldilocks planet and there is plenty of unsustainable porridge within this potentially sustaining world. The universes that popped into existence might have been sustainable for a time, and then just collapsed in rather later than before.

Nor are we talking about one universe fails and another starts. The condition that just allows them to fire off allows them to do it all the time - packs of cards And here the argument is silly, because it is based around time, when time is a condition inside this universe. And then who is to say what mathematical rules apply in such a dimension? My point is that if you push the argument, it ends up in paradox and sillinesses that show that the argument fails all over the place.

Still, this planet,where we have the argument, is only here for a while. The sun will burn it out, if conditions here on the planet do not finish its sustainability first. And as for this universe, it is likely to expand faster than its gravitational pull, so that by the time expansion conks out it will be so distant and lifeless that nothing exerting any sort of gravity will pull anything back in. At least something that collapses back into a crunch has a chance of exploding again, and all of that happens in the range of infinities and (extremely nearly) zeros.

Perhaps in the illusion of beyond our space and beyond our time there are a number of dead lifeless universes, and a number that have crunched, if the rules are sufficiently the same.

In the end the Buddhist view comes along for us, that all is transient, and any notion of salvation is in the utter nothingness which we can face when we are content and have lost all attachments to any permanence. So much is transient (before the whole universe is lost in its space and breaks down as functioning), and we suffer by regarding it as not transient. Here is where Christianity comes in too, that life is like a way of the cross, and only when there is some sort of acceptance of that can there can be another side - not another attachment but some transformation to a different realm and different quality of being. This is not the twaddle of the fundamentalist, but it does draw on that myth that, for all its supernaturalism, drew on something of the experience of collective power, ill health, lack of equity, lack of equality and wondering and hoping that come some sort of paradise might come. Buddha and the Buddhists were on to something, and the Jews and early Christians were on to something. That's the best that can be said.

As for the workings of religion, I put that down to gift and exchange theory, and how we generate surpluses and find some surpluses gifted to us (in ritual acts), and (of course) all those suffered losses forever experienced.

No comments: