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kcrady



    Posts: 1274
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OK, thanks for your responses. There seems to be consensus amongst you that the origin of the universe is as yet unexplained.

I'd like to disagree a bit here.  In this kind of discussion, I like to make a distinction between the concept of "Universe" (capital U, no "the") as the sum of all things that exist (including any gods, "supernatural" realms and whatnot, if they exist), and "the Cosmos"--that which emerged from the Big Bang.  Universe, in whatever form or forms it may manifest, is eternally existent, and cannot not exist.  Any kind of statement or argument, even an attempt to deny Existence, ultimately and logically depends on Existence (Universe).  If you have gods setting dials and pushing the big red button on a Big Bang O' Matic, those gods must first exist.  So, however we might want to go around the mulberry bush, we're forced to agree that Universe exists necessarily, disagreeing only on its contents (whether any "gods" are included or not).  So, in the case of Universe, there is no such thing as an "origin."  The concept does not apply.

Now, when we're talking about the Cosmos, we don't know exactly how and why the Big Bang happened or what exists beyond its boundary (e.g. Branes as in M-Theory, other Cosmoses as in Lee Smolin's fecund cosmoses theory, or something else).  We can model Cosmic evolution going back to about 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang, which is an extremely tiny patch of terra incognita.  If you want to write "Here Be Dragons" on that part of the map, you have to use a really, really, reeeeaaaally tiny typeface.  It's just not much of a cave of ignorance in which to hide a god.

I'd like to now ask another question: do you personally consider it possible that there is some type of intelligence (not necessarily the God of the bible) behind the universe? Or are you completely certain that whatever set everything in motion was un-intelligent?

If by "intelligence" you mean the sort manifested by a sapient person (comparable to a human or greater), I'm going to have to say no.  "Intelligence" of that sort is high up on the ontological pyramid, not the base.  "Intelligence" is far more complex than non-intelligence.  In order for "intelligence" to exist, it has to work somehow.  Eyes see by absorbing certain wavelengths of light and turning them into neural impulses, ears hear by capturing sonic vibrations so that they move an eardrum, the various cortices of a brain (or elements of some brain-equivalent, like a computer, a "spiritual holo-matrix" or whatever you might want to postulate) carry out the different functions of consciousness and cognition, and so on.  This process is so complex, we don't really know how it works yet.

The "how-it-works" is ontologically prior to the intelligence.  If there was no "how-it-works," the intelligence would not work.  There would be no way for it to be awake instead of asleep or dead, Yahweh rather than Wonder Woman, sane rather than insane, and so on.  You can't have tensor calculus if "2+2=4" does not work.  This applies with equal force whether the intelligence is in our Cosmos or some other, "supernatural" or otherwise.  "How-it-works" is the principle of natural regularity, what we sometimes mistakenly call "the laws of physics."  It is not "law" (a prescription of how things ought to behave), but a description of how they do behave.

There cannot be an intelligence without natural regularity (otherwise, it would not have a nature or retain a "regular" identity as anyone in particular), but there can be natural regularity without intelligence.[1]  Being so complex and intricate, intelligence represents a highly-improbable arrangement of interrelated component parts.  There is only one, particular arrangement of neurons that can result in the person we here refer to as "magicmiles."  A Star Trek transporter accident that randomized his molecules would be far, far, far more likely to produce a dead lump of goo, or in a highly unlikely circumstance, a different individual, than to return our "magicmiles" to us.  There's only one "magicmiles," vs. seven billion other humans (and many more billions of possible humans), but exponentially more possible lifeless arrangements of the "few gallons of water and $35.00 worth of chemicals" that make up "magicmiles'" body.

Since natural regularity is ontologically prior to and simpler than intelligence, and any particular intelligence is a highly-improbable arrangement of component parts, it follows then, that intelligence must arise from something simpler than itself via a process consistent with natural regularity.  Fortunately, we know what this process is and how it works: evolution by natural selection.  "Evolution by natural selection" and the processes of cosmic evolution that are prior to it are examples of: more natural regularity.  So, in our quest for an ontological starting point, we arrive at the Principle of Natural Regularity (or "Principle" as such, if you want to boil it down further).  From this, all the other stuff--logic, mathematics, the observable behavior of entities in reality, even intelligence--derives.  "Principle," as manifest in the behavior of whatever should turn out to be the simplest, most fundamental sort of "stuff" (probably Lawrence Krauss's "nothing," i.e., the spacetime manifold) represents an irreducible, metaphysically necessary ontological starting point that actually works as a basis for explanation, rather than being perched high atop a pyramid of improbability and explanation, as "intelligence" does.  Trying to use "intelligence" as a starting point is like proposing that a Boeing 747 is the explanation for aluminum, titanium, and electronic circuitry.
 1. General relativity and Newtonian mechanics work just as well in lifeless solar systems as in ours.
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