Evolution versus Creation
ANIL MITRA © January 2017—January 2017
Evolution versus Creation
Is original Intelligence necessary or is the Universe sufficient unto itself?
On the social network Quora, I wrote a draft of an answer to the question “If intelligent design proves an intelligent creator, why doesn't the same logic also prove a creator of that creator?”
I decided not to publish my answer on Quora so as to not compromise my rights to the article.
It should and that’s a flaw in the argument from design to creator (I omit the word ‘intelligent’ for brevity).
But surely, it may be counter-argued, design does require a designer, so at best we have a stand off: on the one hand design requires a creator and on the other the same argument requires an infinite sequence of creators.
A resolution begins with the fact that what we see in the world is order. We do not see that the order was designed but we infer that it was designed. But seeing order only suggests design and does not necessitate design.
But then what about the watchmaker argument? If I find a watch in the desert I know it was designed and built by human beings — therefore the design in the world must have been designed. This argument has two errors (1) a repetition of the observation that what we see is order and order is not necessarily designed (2) it is an argument by analogy and therefore not necessary. What are some points of difference? Well for one watches do not reproduce themselves; they are not self sustaining organisms; we can see organisms arising from fertilized egg, developing form as they absorb nutrients and so on but this does not happen with watches.
Now the creationist has another argument - a philosophical one. It is that the complex order in the world may have a creation that does not need to be complex. The world is material say but the original form was beyond time and matter—and which could be simple in form though complex in function. But this argument seems like a stretch. It is at least speculative. Perhaps its better to admit that we do not know.
That’s how the argument stood before we understood biological evolution. From the philosophical perspective, an immense point made by evolution is that here is a case where order emerges by material processes without external guidance. It’s a fundamental point because it goes against experience (till Darwin) and intuition and even mechanistic reason.
We don’t know the details of the origin of life but we have every reason to think that that origin was a material process (perhaps there are some relevant aspects of matter that we don’t yet know but we don’t need to posit supernatural intervention).
So, from this perspective, the philosophical argument about complexity from simplicity is quite right except that we do not need to posit something outside nature. More complex natural processes naturally arise from simple natural ones. It’s not necessary here to posit form beyond time and space.
We still don’t understand the origin of our cosmos. What came before the big bang? Here we have no observations. The cosmic microwave background suggests and is consistent with the big bang but it tells us nothing about what (if anything) came before.
That is, we don’t have an explanation for the original creation.
But we do now have a philosophical principle for that explanation. It is by analogy with biology. Biology shows that to go from simple to complex we don’t need the supernatural. No longer do we need to be puzzled or stumped by the emergence of order. What we now ‘need’ is to look for the actual ‘mechanisms’ - which of course, as far as physics goes, may be a long time coming.
Suppose we ask about the origin — the source — of our cosmos. Let’s say we think in terms of ‘multiverses’ or Lee Smolin’s idea that cosmoses evolve and arrive at ours. But then — what’s the source of all that? Again there’s infinite regress — it would seem.
And infinite regress is really no explanation at all.
Is there a way out?
Well each stage of the infinite regress is ‘contingent’ by which I mean that it didn’t have to happen.
Which just adds to the problem of explanation — not only is there regress but not one of those stages is necessary.
That is our answer.
Our cosmos must be necessary.
What I mean is that there are two explanatory alternatives (1) contingent infinite regress which is no explanation (or at best a very unsatisfactory explanation) or (2) our cosmos is necessary — i.e., it must have happened.
We need to be careful. We are not really saying (yet) that our cosmos is necessary. We do say that if there is a good explanation it must be (1) or (2) above, but since (1) is not a good explanation, (2) must be a good explanation. In fact, as necessary it would be very good; but if we were to accept contingent explanations than it would also be the best.
Or, if there is a good explanation of the origin of our cosmos, it is that its being is necessary.
But the idea that our cosmos is necessary is strange. Why should have just its structure? Why can’t there be other cosmoses with different fundamental constants? In fact, why can’t there be other cosmoses with altogether different laws of physics? Why can’t the universe be one ‘big’ void background in transient communication with all kinds of beings, especially stable and semi stable cosmoses?
That is, there is an asymmetry in saying that our cosmos, contingent as it appears, is also necessary. To remove the asymmetry we must say that all possible cosmoses — and more as described in the previous paragraph — are necessary.
That is, if our contingent but logically possible cosmos is necessary, then all logical possibilities are also necessary.
Or, if there is a good explanation for the being of our cosmos, then all logical possibilities are realized.
The actual is the necessary is the logically possible. Assuming of course good explanation.
Can we demonstrate that the actual is the necessary is the logically possible?
Before answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ I should caution that ‘yes’ has potential internal paradox (is it possible that the possible is not realized, etc.) and potential contradiction of experience and common sense.
What we find there is that all beings are equivalent. That any being could arise from any other; particularly any being arises from the void. That is, in agreement with the earlier philosophical argument, all complexity and order can be seen as arising from ultimate simplicity that is not material and perhaps beyond time. But this nothingness is hardly ‘God’. The universe is in and of itself and needs and has no support; no cause.