Monday, February 17, 2014

Further Thoughts On Brute Facts

I've been dry on material lately. I wanted to write a good blog post today but I don't think that's going to happen. There are a few issues on my list of topics to write about. If I could list a few of the political issues that come to mind that are most important to me, they would be church/state issues and secularism, income inequality, college affordability, climate change, and social justice. All of these issues are dear to my heart. I was considering a possible new direction for this blog, away from the emphasis on counter-apologetics and towards something more political, or perhaps more personal, whereby I'd be focusing a lot more on social/political issues as it relates to my life. This is a possibility, and by no means a certainty. The main problem with this is that I don't deal with people in my life that regularly oppose my viewpoints. I never encounter religious fundamentalists, and most of the people around where I live are liberal or left-leaning.

For now I want to refocus on the idea of brute facts once again. If you're an atheist, you take the position that the universe, multiverse, or existence itself, is pretty much a brute fact. Existence exists, and that's just the way it is. The universe just is. We just are. There is no further meaning or answer or purpose available. I can certainly see from the point of view of the philosopher, how this conclusion leaves one yearning for more. The "why is there something rather than nothing" question may be the greatest in all of philosophy, and believe me I don't come to the conclusion of brute facts lightly. I too feel the need to explain our existence with some greater exegetical power than we just are.

First, we know how we got here. We have a great understanding of the cosmic and biological evolution that has resulted in our existence. But is it possible that there is an underlying reason why this process occurred? I'm not necessarily alluding to the classical gods of religion, but might there be an impersonal conscious force that can supply the why question with satisfaction? It seems to me that the answer to the ultimate of questions will be either that there is some kind of deistic god that exists, or there is no god or gods at all and that atheism is true. Theism to me is not on the table, because I feel that all notions of theism fail to make any logical sense, especially given the evidence we have available to us. So it seems to me that either deism or atheism is true. But it is possible that they're both wrong, and there is a third option that is not deism, atheism or theism, that would be in Donald Rumsfeld lingo, an "unknown unknown." That is to say, it is an option that we don't even know about that may or may not be right. That to me is definitely on the table, but it seems very likely that atheism or deism are our two most plausible candidates.

If the brute fact of existence holds true, then it means that something is the ontological default and not nothing. There never was, never will be, and never can be a state of affairs in which absolute nothing exists. There always has been, always will be, and always must be a state of affairs in which something exists. If true it seems to run counter to all the notions we have about existence, but it is certainly not the only thing we know to be counter intuitive that we know is true. A giant, perhaps infinite multiverse may simply just exist, and it may be past and future eternal. We exist in one particular universe, but there may be an infinite number of universes just like ours. It is a fantastic picture of reality that seems to defy just about all of our common sense notions of existence. In such a reality, anything that can happen physically does happen, an infinite number of times. Seriously ruminating on this possibility can make one light in the head, but I do not think it is at all impossible.

Some people have said that there is a dichotomy here. Either one holds to a singular god who created one finely tuned universe, or one has to take the belief in an infinite multiverse to explain away the apparent fine tuning of the physical constants; there is no third option. I think this is a false dichotomy. There could be many kinds of creators if indeed our universe is fine tuned, and one need not accept the classical omni-god of Western monotheism as the only candidate of a creator. Furthermore, the multiverse need not be infinite; a very large but finite multiverse will do just fine.

I personally think that the ultimate nature of reality, whatever it turns out to be, will be so weird, it will hardly resemble what we think it should be.

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