Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Kind of World?

After a long break from blogging (again!), I engaged in a bit of narcissistic behavior today by re-reading some of my old posts and the comments on the posts. So, I was reading 'The Science of Religion' and this is a continuation of the chain of thoughts provoked by godfusion's comment on that post and my reply to it. A majority of people believe that there is an intelligent entity that created the universe and drives - as in actively controls - it. The three monotheistic religions are based on this fundamental idea and have each added a string of richly imaginative ideas to this basic concept. Ideas like praying to this 'creator' entity (they call it God), or ideas of heaven and hell, ideas like the 'messiah' or 'prophet' who is the creator's agent or messenger on earth, ideas about the second coming (or tenth if you believe in the Dashavatars - literally 10 avatars - of Vishnu) of messiahs etc. These people are "Theists". Some people leave it at the 'created' phase. This entity created the world with all it's laws and then let it run and evolve on it's own. These people are Deists. Furthermore, some people believe that after creating the universe the creative intelligence relaxed, kicked back with a couple of bottles of Yeungling lager and watched the creation unfold. These people are just kidding! They can't possibly know the mind of the creative intelligence which doesn't interfere in their universe let alone know what he did after creating the universe.

Anyways... jokes apart... this raises an important question: IF there is a creative intelligence that can create and drive a universe, what kind of a universe would IT create? Would that universe look like the one in which we exist or would it look different? Imagine yourself to be a super intelligent being that is capable of creating the universe (and I mean the UNIVERSE.. not just puny little Earth or puny little Sun.. the whole enchilada... all the things we know and all the things which we as of now don't know!). What would you do? What kind of a world would you create? Now I know that this is a daunting question. Our intelligence is of course NOTHING compared to that of the 'Great One' who created the universe. So we can't possibly answer the question in any meaningful way. So lets just try to answer a set of mini questions based on what we do know:

Using the intelligence we have been give, we have figured out within a great degree of certainty that the universe popped up (quite literally we are told by those in the know) ~ 13 billion years ago. Our own star 'the sun' and the solar system formed around 5 billion years ago. Single celled life appeared on our planet around 3.8 billion years ago. Modern humans arrived on the scene approximately 120000 years ago. So if the 'theists' are right, why did it take the 'creator' such a long time to bring on his 'chosen beings' into the game? Furthermore it took another ~117000 or so years for the humans to reach a level of sophistication good enough for the creator to start sending his agents down to tell us the great news about Him. Lets assume this seemingly improbable set of events did happen, the question then arises, why send so many many different agents down, each with his (and note the curious preference to male messengers here) own version of the story? Why not create a species that gets the right message in the first attempt?

Another commenter asked me about the anthropic principle. As I understand it, the anthropic principle suggests the following: "The fact that we (intelligent humans) exist suggests that there must be some law(s) as yet unknown at work which fine tuned the universe such that intelligent life would evolve in it at some point in it's history". In its essence it is a guide for future researchers to look for law(s) that explain the fine tuning of the fundamental constants. However there is great deal of argument about it and some use the anthropic principle as a clever disguise for the "design argument" - "the fact that humans exist means that the universe MUST have been designed with us in mind". The 'MUST' opens the door for the designer. Lets say this is in fact true. It still doesn't explain the preference for "humans" that is beings on this planet in this solar system. How do we know that the designer did not have some carbon based intelligent life (as yet unknown to us) based on some planet in some solar system in the Andromeda galaxy in mind?

I believe that opening the door for a creator leaves more to be explained about the nature, intelligence and intentions of the creator, than what the existence of the creator explains about our own world. Accepting a supposedly benevolent, active operator behind the universe raises even more questions than it answers. So shouldn't we apply Occam's razor and just let go of such ideas.? How about a simpler explanation? In the words of Don Rumsfeld - "stuff happens".