Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Bounds of Love

Today's post will be a bit long, but it's my first serious written foray into theology, and I know too little (and have too much else to do) to attempt a longer piece elsewhere. Where to begin? Well, I guess that facts are aspects of reality, but are also the elements of our mental maps of reality—what makes a fact objectively true is not that one’s mental map is a perfect representation, but that the reality that is being modelled sufficiently well by that map objectively exists. Similarly beauty is in the eye of the beholder (as is colour, etc.) whilst also being a property of the beheld—and perhaps what makes some perception of a beloved’s loveliness (of moral goodness, etc.) a veridical perception is the existence of God (linguistically male below, for convenience). Now, that would of course depend upon the details of such perceptions; but let us suppose that someone might somehow have come by a justified belief in the existence of this Universe’s Creator, much as we come by our beliefs in the existence of this Universe. After all, the divine creation of a man who naturally believes in his Creator’s existence might also give that belief some justification. So, can we say much about this Universe’s possible Creator?
......Well, something like omniscience would seem to be indicated, since an author will know all there is to know about her works, on which she is the authority. But the question arises, must the Creator know now all that we will actually do? Such would seem to contradict our directly known freedoms, few and limited as they are. A recent argument in Alanyzer shows that from plausible assumptions it follows that the Creator also exists within time. And after all, there being an act of Creation in the first place would seem to presuppose something like temporality on the part of the Creator. Open or Process Theism is not so much a limitation as a positive freedom—if the Creator did not exist within something like time (with future possibilities, and past actualities) then there would have been no free choice to Create, so there could have been no real motivation for Creation, which would make it all pretty pointless (and this argument for a Creator was the absurdity of his absence). There are problems with Open Theism, e.g. how are we to understand either the time before God, or else God’s infinite past. But time is a great mystery anyway (about which I shall post eventually), so let us move on.
......There are many conceivable motivations, and the real one may well be inconceivable, but prima facie quantum mechanics seems like a good way to put reasoning beings into a world of prescribed possibilities. Living beings exist as they do—being aware of changes and making choices—because they exist during the present collapse of the future possibilities into the past actuality that we perceive all around us. Why would that be a useful thing to do? Well, maybe the Creator knows that He does not know what He does not know, and in particular He does not know for sure whether or not there are others of His kind. How could He? (Maybe He could, maybe not; this is only a conceivable possibility.) So, maybe this Universe is a means of finding out more. One problem with that hypothesis could be that God’s infinite past becomes more of a problem—we have to imagine God not being motivated, for an infinite time, to find out what He is now so interested in. But still, perhaps there were infinitely many other things to find out about (and infinity is another great mystery anyway), so let us press on.
......Fortunately the infamous problem of evil is not a problem for this possibility. Maybe we did choose to be born (clichés notwithstanding). Maybe in a previous, more Heavenly existence (following our Creation as minds) we were asked if we wanted to participate in such an investigation, and we bravely said yes. Maybe the point of it all is therefore (paradoxically) the facilitation of the presence of other gods. We just don’t know; there are just so many possibilities. But therefore we can see each such possibility, not so much as a reason to believe in that motivation, as a reason for not being presumptuous. If the point of our existence in this Universe were the facilitation of the presence of (or more generally, the finding out more about the possibility of) other gods, then such activities as paganism and polytheism might even cohere with the Creator’s intention. That is, monotheism and multiculturalism need not conflict.
......That possibility may well seem too odd, but after all, why is there so little direct evidence for the Creator’s existence? Presumably Heaven is full of such evidence, so why were we not Created there in the first place? If the point of life is to be with and to love our Creator, then why are we here? Furthermore various people have noticed how lazy the Creator seems to have been, from (all the evidence for) natural laws to natural selection, whereas with a motivation like this one He would actually require a minimal support for minds (one that facilitated complicated structures without specifying too much about them). In short, the possibility of fleeting evils may have been the acceptable price of a useful space for free will, within an orderly, lawful cosmos; a price that we may even have chosen to pay, before we were born here (those of us who are not divinely animated, or machines—and perhaps we should not presume without good reason that none of the atheists are machines). Our ignorance (if we are honest) of the precise nature of evil may just be part of the whole point of our existence.
......Would it be so bad, that our existence had some point to it, beyond hopes of being the Creator's lap-dogs in Heaven? Perhaps in Heaven things are lovelier and more perfect, but perhaps also divine plans are laid there, plans to bravely find out more about the unknown. (And note that I'm not suggesting that we could find out about such things, only that our lives may have some ultimate point to them.) Anyway, in short, far from there being no way to make sense of what little data we have, there are actually too many live possibilities for us to be too dogmatic about, e.g., the unlikelihood of a Creator (about which I shall post more eventually).

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