Thursday, June 17, 2010
Gods, gods, God, god, aliens, agents, designers, and Designers!
I recently talked about how Nick Bostrom's argument is either an argument against Darwinian evolution, or an argument that demonstrates ID can be entirely naturalistic, even at its most wild. Let's focus on the "naturalism" issue a bit more.
One of my favorite posts by the brilliant Ed Feser is The Trouble with William Paley. Probably one of his less favorite posts, since I've brought it up about ten times during my blog-via-comments phase (Thanks for that summary, Cogitator!). What I find remarkable about it is that Ed's view of "naturalism" seemingly could include lowercase-g gods without issue: Zeus, Thor, etc. Not the God of classical theism, but those "lesser" gods? Sure.
And I've found that many others, including naturalists, seem to take views similar to Ed's. Such that the idea of powerful beings from other planets seeding our planet with life is naturalism (otherwise Francis Crick wasn't a naturalist), just as our living in a simulation is naturalistic (otherwise Nick Bostrom, Sir Martin Rees, and others are flirting with or are committed to non-naturalism), etc. And frankly, once someone is talking about life on our planet, or our entire universe, being the result of an intentional act by a powerful being or beings... really, doesn't that sound like good ol' fashioned polytheism/supernaturalism to you?
Now, there's of course the standard reply. "But those are just powerful aliens! Not gods!" My response is, I fail to see a difference that matters. Ed does have a point that the God of classical theism is quite a different thing, drastically so, than Zeus. I would add that some other conceptions of God (Say, most versions of Brahman, or even Berkeley's God) are also damn different from Zeus. But how different is Zeus and the gods of Olympus from Nick Bostrom's programmer, or even Crick's seeding-the-universe-with-life society? Frankly, not too much. "Degree, not kind", as they say.
Of course, this wreaks havoc on some traditional thoughts about many things, history included. One of the supposed benefits of modern science is that it has aided in banishing superstition, which is of course associated with "supernaturalism". But suddenly that no longer seems to be the case. Take the typical example - "Lightning is caused by thunderbolts hurled by Thor!" But if Thor is a naturalistic being, then that was just a questionable naturalistic hypothesis. And having control over lightning can't itself be sufficient to call someone a supernatural being anyway, or else I just supplied pictorial evidence that the supernatural is real at the start of this post.
Oddly enough, one point of all this is that advances in technology are the naturalistic atheist's greatest enemy.