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A New Creation Story

The God of the Gaps must be feeling mightily squeezed these days. Is it any surprise that someone wants to give him/her/it a whole new universe in which to hang out?

Clay Farris Naff tries to do just that in a post today on the Scientific American guest blog titled, “A Secular Case for Intentional Creation.” The post isn’t about the creation of Earth or humanity, which Naff kindly considers settled, but about the creation of our universe itself. It’s one of those happy-middle arguments that insists that both extremes must be wrong.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with these arguments, the position of one side is pushed a bit further in order to make room in that middle.

In this case, Naff is unhappy with the usual suspects, the New Atheists. (In the interests of disclosure, I consider myself a New Atheist and derive a small income from blogging as one.) Where are the New Atheists wrong about the origin of the universe?

A week ago, Bora Zivkovic sent me a note to say that the Scientific American guest blog would be publishing a post by an accommodationist. He wanted to know whether I wanted to write a response that would appear with the accommodationist post. I’ve written for the guest blog before, so he knows I meet deadlines and don’t need much editing–the sorts of things an editor likes.

Having the response to a post like this appear at the same time as the post is, of course, the sort of thing a “New Atheist” loves. I jumped at the chance. The results are up today. Go read.

Comments

  1. says

    Being one of the other guys (believer in a Supreme Energy), it’s nice to know that science has a way of always prevailing. When more observations are acquired theories are rewritten or trashed. When theories stand the test of time they become facts, unless new observations later disproves them. Dealing with the here and now is the realm of science, unless of course you are a quantum physicist and then time just gets in the way. Personally I think skeptics are wonderful. They keep all of us on track. Scientific skeptics are the best, because once proven wrong they have no qualms about changing their opinion, albeit it takes a lot of reproducibility. We are all infants when it comes to the knowledge required to understand this universe.
    A smart person once told me that when he dies, if he finds out that there is a Jewish God, a Jew he will be. Same is true of a Moslem God, Buddhist Supreme Being, or any other type of Supreme Being. He will become whatever is necessary to get into heaven. The truth is he will not be telling any lies. The belief will be pure, because his information had changed. A is a true scientist.

  2. F says

    OK, so I just started reading Intentional, and never mind the Wooster quote at the head, there’s that giant strawman erected in the first paragraph.

    Not looking good, Naff.

  3. Rike says

    But Naff’s story makes just as little sense as the bible stories. So, ok, maybe another civilization created our universe, and maybe before the big end we will be able to create yet another universe. Big deal! That still does not tell us how the very first universe came into being, or, if an intelligent designer was needed, where did that designer come from? We will still have to wait for science to figure it out.

  4. F says

    I think you pretty well addressed Naff’s article with your own. And I have to thank you for ferreting out his argument for, because I couldn’t find one. Listing people and ideas to dismiss them, then providing a brief SF possibility as to how, or more accurately, why, the universe might have been created does not seem much of an argument.

    Granting the supposition, though, makes me ask the question: And what would one change about their manner of being due to supposing the universe was created by something for some purpose? How does that change “The Meaning Of Life” or set a scientific goal? What sort of “purpose” can an individual latch onto here, and for what reason? Aliens created the universe for x, therefore my life has meaning? Make your own.

  5. clay farrisnaff says

    You are, of course, entitled to take your best shots at what I wrote, but if those are indeed your best shots, well, let’s say I won’t be printing a retraction anytime soon.

    F: Straw man, huh? I take it you’re referring to this: “claim that science demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that our existence is accidental, purposeless, and doomed.” So, you’re saying that the New Atheist position is actually that humanity was created intentionally, with a purpose, and will outlive the Universe???

    Rike: I did not set myself the task of explaining the ultimate origin of everything. To make my case, I don’t need to. Good thing, because all such attempts fall back on one of two answers: infinite regress or brute assertion. As for comparing my conjecture with Bible stories, let me suggest that if you truly want to be freethinker, you need to back away from reflexive condemnation of any new idea that comes from outside the comfortable, familiar narrative. That’s not freethought, it’s groupthink.

    Regards,

    Clay Farris Naff

  6. clay farrisnaff says

    F: re #5, if you’re serious and not merely sniping, may I suggest you go back to the column and read the comments there? To give you a brief answer here, what we think about the future affects our behavior today. If we believe that the world is about to end, then we don’t give a shit about the environment, for example (as with the End Times loons). If we believe (with some *tentative* justification) that it’s up to us to keep life alive to the end of the Universe and beyond, that may shape our behavior in a very different way indeed.

    Regards,

    Clay

  7. says

    I can’t condemn the idea, but without evidence, useful predictions, or any way to falsify it, I feel pretty comfortable dismissing it as fictional hand-waving. There are no shots to be taken, because there’s nothing there to shoot at.
    Whether you call it “God” or “cosmic purpose,” putting it beyond any sort of empirical verification makes it, essentially, a god of the gaps argument. A cute idea, but about as useful as Last Thursdayism. An improvement on the apocalyptic viewpoint, sure, but as a motivator of behavior, not really distinguishable from trying to stay alive because we want to.

  8. F says

    clay farrisnaff

    F: Straw man, huh? I take it you’re referring to this: “claim that science demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that our existence is accidental, purposeless, and doomed.” So, you’re saying that the New Atheist position is actually that humanity was created intentionally, with a purpose, and will outlive the Universe???

    That’s two strawmen, or a strawman plus deliberate ignorance. You seek to characterize “New Atheists” as some people who see everything as “doomed”, with all the baggage that carries. Well, of course, life on this planet, our sun, and the universe will all end eventually. If you want call that “seeing our existence as doomed”, so be it.

    No, I don’t see any purpose instilled by some exterior agency, but everyone can have purposes. And they are a lot more meaningful than “because gos wants x” or “because some alien agency created this universe”. What exact purposes or meanings do you derive from such a possibility anyway?

    You haven’t done anything here to provide even a semblance of plausibility to your purported main idea. What you have done is attempt to tar “New Atheists” as a bunch of negative nancies, which is hardly new. It’s all about your problem with the “New Atheists”, and since you didn’t have a reason which looked good when written out, you made something up.

    So again, what is the point of imagining this is a created universe? Or, conversely, what is wrong with ignoring things for which there is no evidence whatsoever?