Home Forums Deep Time Journey Forum Is the universe a "living system"? Reply To: Is the universe a "living system"?

Davidson Loehr

<p>Ed, you wrote:</p><p> </p><p>Humans are products of the universe. Humans are intelligent. Therefore the universe IS intelligent – regardless of the means used to create us (multiple universes, coincidences or whatever) – because we ARE the universe. The prevailing scientific narrative – a faith-based belief born out of a backlash against religion, in my opinion, and not grounded in evidence – is that the universe operates blindly without intelligent direction or “vision,” and that life is an “accident.” This is a narrative, a story, an interpretation – not anything approaching a substantiated fact and I find it dogmatic to try to imply otherwise. An alternate interpretation that equally fits the facts would be that humans are the “eyes, ears, hands and mind” of an intelligent universe… In this sense, the universe is waking up and evolution is now clearly being directed by intelligent design. Ours.</p><p> </p><p>This seems, to me, to be the heart of some of your arguments, most of Duane’s, and some others in this thread. It seems to me that the logical fallacies scream out. “Humans are intelligent. Therefore the universe is intelligent.” Well, then “Humans are violent, hierarchical, territorial; they love stories, are easily led and misled by stories, often dishonest — many times a day, according to some articles. Humans, as the long history of slavery illustrates, are racist, classist, depressingly unwise, and not to be trusted when power is at stake…. Therefore the universe is violent, hierarchical; is drawn to (or exists within) stories, is often dishonest, racist, classist, depressingly unwise, and not to be trusted when power is at stake.” And so on. It’s hard to find a lot of “intelligent design” in our history, our attitude towards the environment, other people, etc. But in every human ideology or activity, Chance always plays a role. Mutations are created by chance, etc. </p><p> </p><p>A reason I keep feeling this is a religious argument — one from Western civilization — is around the fact of Chance (I think it’s earned the capital). Here’s why. In Western (i.e., Biblical) religions, Chance is the primary enemy. Jews used the word apikoros to describe a category of people who would be excluded from their imagined “world to come.” Their sin was to deny that God is in charge of everything, to posit that some things happen on their own, without any connection to God. It comes from the word Epicurus, the Greek philosopher who observed that Chance is involved in everything — at all scales, we could add today. Throughout the history of Biblical religions, Chance has been the primary demon, simply because it says that the ancient tribal deity (and war god) Jahweh — the main God of the Bible — is not in charge of history, or the universe. And they’re right, in a sense: when Chance is involved, no god has any interesting role left to play (well, except all the Tricksters). Biblical religions haven’t hated all Greek philosophies, only Epicureanism. They used Plato to structure all their mysticism, Aristotle to structure their integrative thought, and the Stoics to structure their notion of ethics. But Chance is always the enemy. That’s what’s really being fought in the orthodox stand against evolution, as well as women’s rights (remember that Paul said men were created in the image of God, but women were just created in the image of men). With any tribal god, obedience is likely to be far more important than empowerment. I’ve long thought that you can spot someone raised in a culture where those notions of obedience play a central role just by their attitudes toward Chance. From my understanding of science, religion and history, Chance plays a role everywhere, at every level.</p><p> </p><p>This is shorthand; it sounds like I’m almost endowing Chance with intelligence, purpose, etc. No, no Thing there, no Power or Agency. Just the observable fact that no deterministic rules ever account for all the phenomena. But I’d argue that it’s the same shorthand used when “God” is instead expressed as a consciousness, intelligence, or a nearly infinite universe that lives, thinks, anticipates — so must love — humans. I think this is why several on this list are quick to link what you’re saying with “intelligent design” arguments. It sounds and feels like one shorthand way of saying what you’re saying is “God did it all, and God loves us.” Or at least that we share in the “Holy Spirit.” I’m not arguing for religious orthodoxy: I think it has done immeasurable harm, both to religion and to people. But so has libertarianism.</p><p> </p><p>The fuzzy area, it seems to me, is where you cite a lot of articles or individual scientists who are espousing what sound like straight-up mystical beliefs, and when you argue that this enlarged definition of “science” is fast approaching: “the world to come.” (If so, then certainly the apikoros will be excluded.) If you’re right, then yes, it would move the lines of orthodoxy to a place where, now, would seem quite wrong. And I’m aware that every major scientific advance has first been met with widespread resistance because it doesn’t toe the established line. So it’s fuzzy. I don’t think there is any coherent sense at all in which “the universe” (is it really a thing, rather than trillions of things?) can be called alive, intelligent, a kind of substrate — made of what? — and so on. Maybe that just marks the limits of my ability to understand the future. I’ll admit, I can’t know that. Fuzzy. </p><p> </p><p>But good stimulating ideas in this fairly haphazard thread of discussions!</p><p> </p><p>Davidson</p>