Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bayes Theorem and God

Bayes: A man of the cloth

I’m making available for download this paper entitled Bayes Theorem and God. It first appeared in two parts on my blog in July 2010. (See here and here)

The interest in this paper is, as far as I’m concerned, bound up with it providing yet another angle on Western dualism; that is, an implicit philosophy that sees the world through the two sharply distinguished categories of the natural and the supernatural. My oft quoted example, of course, is the way this dualism makes itself felt in the North American Intelligent Design debate. This debate casts the question of the origin of life in a dichotomised conceptual mold: namely, that is life either the outcome of natural processes or supernatural intelligent agency and neither the twain shall meet; if it is intelligent agency then that is considered to be sure fire evidence for God, but if it is a natural product then absence of evidence may be evidence of God’s absence! 

I have, of course, criticised this dualistic philosophy many times before; see here for example. The basis of my criticism is that in the West God’s eminence is stressed at the expenses of His immanence; the upshot being that God is then seen as a disconnected homunculus who tinkers every now and again with his creation; if we see no evidence of tinkering then that is taken to be evidence of his non-existence.

A consequence of homunculus Intelligent Design theory is that it has become very dependent on disbelief in, not just current theories of evolutionary mechanisms, but in fact any “naturalistic” scenario whereby it is recognised that the physical regime has the potential to generate life. Dualistic categories that polarise natural and supernatural categories against one another inclines those who use those categories to draw conclusions like: “If natural processes did it, then supernatural processes didn't do it!” or conversely “If God did it, natural processes didn't do it!”.

Clearly, the existence of archaeological artefacts, like tools and buildings etc point to the existence of the action of human intelligence (or perhaps even alien intelligence if they surfaced on the Moon or on Mars!). But this homunculus model breaks down with Divine Intelligence. The Christian understanding of the Divine is that God’s Intelligence is totalising and immersive; being all around us it does no justice to describe it soley in eminent terms (although that intelligence can, of course, on occasion, interface with our world as if it were an homunculus). Therefore in the light of Christian theology, natural processes and Divine Sovereign management are difficult to disentangle.

If life has been generated by some kind of “natural process” (even if it’s not evolutionary mechanisms as conventionally understood) then this rules out the operation of an eminent homunculus who works within the rules of the physical regime. Instead it leaves us with a far more startling option; namely, that our universe is governed by an extremely rare and special kind of logic; one that can generate life. Alien homunculi, presumably, can’t choose or influence the logic inherent in the laws of physics. So if our universe is immersed in a regime of logic which governs everywhere and everywhen, then whatever selects and controls the operation of this very special logic is immanent and not just eminent. Given the Western Christian theological background it is difficult to gainsay the conclusion to be drawn from this; namely, that God’s presence is manifest in the very fabric of the cosmos and not just in the occasional acts of a homunculus. It is an irony that North American ID, with its dualistic categories, is not helping us to see what could be staring us in the face.

The fine tuning argument is treated similarly by North American ID: See here:

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