Re: [asa] An Intelligent Design Riddle

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Fri Oct 23 2009 - 04:08:27 EDT

Heya Murray,

Don't worry about having only preliminary thoughts on this matter - it's a
very, very fresh topic, after all. And I don't think Gribbin's speculations
are rightly called science anyway, though certainly the philosophy and
metaphysics are fascinating.

I agree that I think Gribbin is making an ID claim here, even if it's coming
from a different direction. Again, I mention how Paul Davies pointed out
that the mere introduction of a multiverse makes "designed universes"
basically inevitable on its own (and still begs the question of the
multiverse's origin), and makes the odds of our living in such a simulation
vastly more likely than being at the 'top floor', so to speak.

I'd also like to know what you mean by Gribbin providing reason to believe
"this universe" is intelligently designed "without engaging in an attempt to
smuggle in religious truth claims by the back door". I don't think ID
proponents do that, I admit - I think the only truth they're interested in
getting on the science table (and again, I mention I don't think such design
or !design talk is scientific) is that of design itself. On the flipside, I
also don't think it's possible for Gribbin to make the argument he is
utterly distinct from "religious truth claims". As I said, if our universe
is designed, then deism at the very minimum is true - and deism being true
means atheism is false. Now, I know that most atheists tend to be
specifically motivated against specific religions rather than the mere claim
of God existing - but 'deism at least' is 'deism at least', and has

Finally, I think there's some good observations worked in with your
unpolished talk of reductionism and Dawkins. I do remember once upon a time
John Barrow telling Dawkins something along the lines of "The reason you
have trouble with these ideas, Richard, is that you're not a real scientist.
You're a historian." I also have sensed, in interviews and his writing, that
Dawkins really likes to give cosmological topics as wide a berth as
possible. And so, in response to your own "unpolished" musing, I'll offer
one of my own.

I often take a different view of the success of science and technology from
others on this subject. I don't think religion is merely compatible with
science - I think theism and design, in a broad sense, has fared vastly
better than naturalism and atheism when it comes to science. First, because
I'm a fan of CS Peirce's argument for theism on the grounds that the
continual success of science demonstrates the rationality and
comprehensibility of nature - which is more explicable on theism than

But there's another reason. Nature was great back when it was almost Godlike
- unfathomable, opaque, and beyond humanity in many ways, but still not
using a mind in its grand operations. I'm reminded of Bertrand Russell
huffily pointing out that, while materialism went down the drain due to
physics (A reaction by a famous atheist that few talk about, I note),
humanity/mind was still very limited (unable to 'do anything' to the sun,
the moon, etc - I wonder what he'd think of fusion power and the moon
landing, to say nothing of delayed choice quantum eraser experiments or mars
landers. He wrote the paper I'm referring to here in 1928, after all). But
now, we have philosophers (irreligious ones, no less) openly speculating
about the possibility of us living in a computer simulation. We have
physicists speculating that we ourselves may be able to affect the entire
universe (Frank Tipler's Omega Point, quantum measurement questions, etc),
create a new universe (Linde, Gribbin and others), or otherwise. Suddenly,
making the universe past-eternal (though that seems out of the cards for at
least the scientists, for now) or postulating a multiverse is dangerous -
infinity and eternality were skeptic's friends only before so much was
accomplished with, and viewed as possible for, human technology. But now
it's just a great way to guarantee designed universes - therefore deities
and teleology, and who knows what else.

Again, I realize that 'design' is not enough to get one to Christianity -
and I think discussing multiverses and so on may mean less that science is
going to 'prove' design and more that cosmology and other parts of science
may be hitting a wall, re-establishing the importance of philosophy and
metaphysics. But minds in general (and therefore design) are a load of
trouble on naturalism/atheism. Minds capable of making universes, simulated
or 'real' (whatever that means anymore), are downright fatal, regardless of
which religion or metaphysical school - if any current - is correct. Which
means that talk of multiverses, infinite pasts, etc now harm the naturalist
view rather than help it; it makes grand-scale 'design' not a live
possibility, but in essence a guarantee. For me, it brings to mind a Simon
and Garfunkel line - "Laugh about it, shout about it, when you've got to
choose. Every way you look at it, you lose."

On Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 9:23 PM, Murray Hogg <>wrote:

> Hi Schwarzwald,
> I'm currently musing over responses to a number of other posts, one of
> which is that of Cameron Whybrow on my comments about an engineering systems
> approach to evolution.
> I don't, at the moment, have time to do those issues justice, but one thing
> which did occur to me is that Gribbin's proposal resonates with exaclty the
> sort of concept I have in mind. He is, after all, arguing essentially that a
> civilization with sufficiently advanced technology could "engineer" a
> universe identical to ours - one which would "naturally" see the origin and
> development of life through evolutionary processes.
> In this, I think, he is implicitly affirming that it is necessary to posit
> some sort of intelligent agency to explain the *process* of evolution - by
> which process the *artefacts* of evolution can come into existence
> "naturally".
> I would make three comments;
> 1) To directly answer your question as to whether this entails an ID claim:
> I would have to say that I very much see his position as entailing an ID
> claim - but a claim which distinguishes design of *process* in distinction
> to (direct) design of the *artefacts*.
> 2) Gribbin may have well provided evidence that one can posit intelligent
> design of *this* universe without engaging in an attempt to smuggle in
> religious truth claims by the back door.
> 3) One unpolished musing - actually a grab-bag of related musings - which
> would require quite a bit of development before I would even remotely call
> it a "position" (let alone an "argument");
> If one wants to argue (as Dawkins et al do) that the "higher" human
> faculties (such as religious belief!) can be "reduced" to explanations at
> the level of biology. Then, consistently, they should argue that biological
> faculties can be reduced to explanation at the level of physics.
> So, if the explanations of theologians are made redundant by the theorizing
> of evolutionary biologists, then the explanations of evolutionary biologists
> are made redundant by the theorizing of physicists.
> So, if one wants to consider "design" in biological systems then the
> "experts" are, in fact, the physicists - and guess what discipline Gribbin
> is from? And guess what he is positing?
> Thus, given Dawkins own reductionist programme, it would seem that
> physicist Gribbin's sense that biological systems require a designer is a
> more credible position than biologist Dawkins' view that Darwinism
> eliminates design.
> In addition, just as Dawkins doesn't need to know anything about theology
> to refute it, so biological objections to Gribbin's position wouldn't be the
> least relevant (I don't personally believe this, only it occurs to me that
> this might the logical consequence of Dawkins' own refusal to consider the
> possibility that "higher level" explanations may be equally as true as
> "lower level" ones).
> As I say, that thought is VERY rough and I wouldn't be the least surprised
> if it doesn't hold water. But as a crude first-approximation it does
> (perhaps) suggest that Dawkins' reductionism position might be delightfully
> self-refuting.
> Blessings,
> Murray.
> Schwarzwald wrote:
>> This is a question I've been wondering about for quite a while now, and
>> I'm curious of how christians on this list (and on both sides of the ID
>> debate) would answer.
>> Popular science author John Gribbin recently wrote a book called "In
>> Search of the Multiverse". The multiverse aspect alone is not what interests
>> me, however. What's interesting is that Gribbin is using the multiverse
>> theory to suggest that our universe was created. From the book:
>> "The intelligence required to do the job may be superior to ours, but it
>> is a finite intelligence reasonably similar to our own, not an infinite and
>> incomprehensible God. The most likely reason for such an intelligence to
>> make universes is the same as the reason why people do things like climbing
>> mountains or studying the nature of subatomic particles using accelerators
>> like the LHC – because they can. A civilization that has the technology to
>> make baby universes might find the temptation irresistible, while at the
>> higher levels of universe design, if the superior intelligences are anything
>> at all like us there would be an overwhelming temptation to improve upon the
>> design of their own universes. This provides the best resolution yet to the
>> puzzle Albert Einstein used to raise, that ‘the most incomprehensible thing
>> about the Universe is that it is comprehensible.’ The Universe is
>> comprehensible to the human mind because it was designed, at least to some
>> extent, by intelligent beings with minds similar to our own. Fred Hoyle put
>> it slightly differently. ‘The Universe,’ he used to say, ‘is a put-up job.’
>> I believe that he was right. But in order for that ‘put-up job’ to be
>> understood, we need all the elements of this book."
>> Gribbin isn't the first person to make this observation. Paul Davies
>> suggested this sort of conclusion became very likely on multiverse views
>> (and he regarded it as a reductio ab absurdum of such views), Martin Rees
>> has apparently suggestly it may be possible or likely. There are others, and
>> variations on the theme (Nick Bostrom's simulation argument, and so on.)
>> But I have two questions for those on this list.
>> To ID proponents: Is John Gribbin making an ID claim here? If not, why
>> not? And if so, what are your thoughts on this?
>> To other christians on the list regardless of ID sympathies: If our
>> universe is, in fact, an intentional creation - even if we speculate that
>> omnipotence may not be strictly necessary to achieve this - isn't it the
>> case that deism, at the very least, is true?
>> And I want to play with a prediction here. A lot of time and attention has
>> been paid to the "New Atheists", though it's been petering out over the past
>> couple years in my estimation. To be frank, I don't think atheism in the
>> style of Dawkins and company has much of a future - too empty, too dogmatic.
>> What I suspect does have a future, however, are speculations like Gribbin's.
>> Personally, I don't think this is atheism. At the same time, it certainly
>> isn't (or is not necessarily, at least) Christianity.
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Received on Fri Oct 23 04:09:16 2009

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