Friday, October 25, 2013

Making the Most of Our Cosmic Home

About the problem of evil: if the existence of evil proves the non-existence of God, then this implicitly affirms that an "entire absence of evil" would be "deducible from the presence of God."

Right. But this assumes the possibility of creatures "wholly without freedom, able to make no decisions except those duplicating what God decides for them." Thus, they wouldn't actually be creatures at all, just extensions of God. So it seems that if free human persons are to exist, evils must come.

Okay. But what about nonhuman evil -- if it even makes sense to attribute evil to natural phenomena such as hurricanes, viruses, and gardening accidents? This, I think, actually poses more of a problem for the traditional view, since human evil may only contribute a small percentage -- depending on the case -- to the evils experienced by man. Do the existence of these evils preclude a good God?

Here I think the process view is the only one capable of adequately addressing this question. That is to say, in process philosophy, we don't begin with a rigidly deterministic cosmos that inexplicably manifests freedom with the appearance of human beings.

There is no materialistic explanation for such a shockingly discontinuous development, which is why scientism can cope with neither freedom nor ethics. Rather, it tries to eliminate the former entirely and reduce the latter to some sort of glorified animal instinct or impersonal genetic strategy.

But process philosophy begins with the principle of creativity, and therefore freedom. Thus, a degree of freedom is present in every process, every occasion, every event. Of course, it is much more attenuated in the quantum world than in the human world, but still, over time, we see what the cosmic creativity brings forth.

If there were no such creativity latent in matter, then it couldn't bloody well come to life, now could it? Likewise, if there were no creativity in the genes, they'd just produce more effective killing machines, certainly not poems, novels, and symphonies.

Creativity, like freedom, cuts both ways. For example, think of the tricky flu virus that each year finds a new way to get around our immune system. So, with the existence of freedom and creativity comes "risk as well as opportunity."

Now, there appear to be three long-term cosmic possibilities: either the cosmos is unchanging; it is getting "worse"; or it is getting "better." Physicists such as Einstein insist -- appearances to the contrary notwithstanding -- that time is just a "persistent illusion," and that the cosmos is really just a big brick.

Traditionalists adopt the view that everything is necessarily going downhill since the creation, as if subject to a kind of metacosmic entropy. Therefore, the past is better than the present, because it is "closer" to the first cause. Time in this view is essentially corrosive.

The converse of this is the evolutionary view held by people such as Teilhard de Chardin and various new age yahoos, in which the cosmos is "winding up." It's not getting older, it's getting better!

These three positions are entangled with the nature of God -- or of the absolute principle, if one denies God.

For example, Aristotle posits a First Cause, the Unmoved Mover, which was later incorporated into Christian metaphysics. Such a view implicitly argues that to cause is intrinsically superior to being caused. And if we consider this temporally, it "implies that the past is in principle better than the present," since the present is wholly caused by the past.

This, it seems to me, accounts for the romantic gnostalgia of traditionalists who exalt the past and denigrate the present. Like the "block universe," it is a highly problematic view, because it means that what looks to us like creativity is just a form of decay.

Ultimately it must mean that "whatever the creative process produces is in no way an enrichment of the divine reality, who must be cause only, in no way effect." Thus, "the creation is literally of no value to God."

This comes close to the Gnostic heresy that creation itself is a fall -- that existence as such is a sin, since it implies separation from God. In other words, sin isn't located in human freedom, but way before that, in the mere act of creation.

To insist that to cause is superior to being caused is also to say that necessity is intrinsically superior to contingency. Is this possible? If true, it would mean that a machine is superior to a human being. It would essentially define freedom as a bad thing, something wholly deviant, with no upside.

The third view, of an evolutionary cosmos, is also problematic, because it essentially embodies a mirror image of the fallacies of the second.

Indeed, this is why it is so compatible with a bonehead progressivism that denigrates the past -- tradition -- and exalts the future. Just as the implication of traditionalism is that people of the past were "better" than us, the implication of evolutionism is that we are just stepping stones to the future human beings who will be superior to us.

More ominously, it reduces human beings to a means to some future end. And this is precisely where the genocidal left jumps in to accelerate the process.

In my opinion, the only way out of these metaphysical muddles and nul de slacks is the Raccoon way, because it balances and harmonizes conservation, creative surprise, and evolutionary adventure.

(All of the quoted material in this post is from Hartshorne's Insights & Oversights.)

10 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

...if it even makes sense to attribute evil to natural phenomena such as hurricanes, viruses, and gardening accidents?

Hey, speaking of which, how's your hand doing?

10/25/2013 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

In my opinion, the only way out of these metaphysical muddles and nul de slacks is the Raccoon way, because it balances and harmonizes conservation, creative surprise, and evolutionary adventure.

Yes, just so. To claim the superiority of either past or future is about as wise as claiming that it is better to exhale than to inhale.

10/25/2013 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

If true, it would mean that a machine is superior to a human being. It would essentially define freedom as a bad thing, something wholly deviant, with no upside.

Plainly and truthfully stated as here, this sounds insane. It's amazing, though, how many people would rather think of themselves as a helpless cog in the machine rather than a (secret) free moral agent (man).

Like poor old Brooksie in "Shawshank", some people can't make it on the outside.

10/25/2013 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie said...

I received my book today. Thanks, Bob, the limerick was perfect.

10/25/2013 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You are most welcome. And Julie -- the broken bone healed by early October, but that was probably the least of the damage -- I must have sprained every joint in every finger, plus the wrist, so I'm guessing it will take a few months to resolve. However, it works well enough for my needs, and there's no real pain, so I'm just grateful to be a primate with an opposable thumb.

10/26/2013 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We had a much more serious medical emergency last week, when our dane got torsion, which is fatal if they don't have emergency surgery within a matter of minutes. Luckily, we got him to the ER within half an hour, so he's okay. But not cheap! They had to slice him open from sternum to belly button, untwist the stomach, and then staple it to the ribcage so it doesn't happen again.

10/26/2013 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Sympathies, Bob! They [actually in AGAINST THE DAY by Pynchon] say
if you have to ever torture someone, just working the feet & fingers is enough---so you may be blessed it's not worse. May full recoop be soon!

10/26/2013 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yikes - I had heard about broken bones healing faster than connective tissues, but hadn't realized what a huge difference it can be. But that explains why a sprain can be so much tougher to recover from than a clean break.

I'm really sorry to hear about your poor dane, though. I saw Mrs. G's photo of him on Google+, but thought maybe "he" was a "she," and had just been spayed. Gastric torsion is terrible; when we got our first dog, the woman we bought her from warned us about the warning signs, and so I was always terrified it would happen to her. I'm glad you guys were able to get him to surgery in time. I hope your pooch is on the mend soon!

10/26/2013 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

A fairly recent stellar work by
Lou
RIP
or rip
the roof off that sucker!
whichever you please

10/27/2013 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

The Raccoon way is tricky, as you even once stated you must stand as an absolutist or an evolutionary. I go back and forth, depending on the day but the idea of emergence does make God more alive for me.

10/28/2013 06:50:00 AM  

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