Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jason Rosenhouse has an interesting post in the aftermath of the school massacre:
The fundamentalists over at AiG are fools, but it is important to remember that more mainstream Christianity has no better answer than they for the problem of evil. The ability of people to deny the obvious is simply not to be believed. The existence of great moral evil such as this can not be reconciled in any plausible way with the existence of a God who loves His creatures. Surely the simpler explanation is also the better one. As Richard Dawkins memorably put it:

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.

Instead of tying ourselves into knots trying to reconcile A with Not A, why not simply accept the plain truth that Dawkins expressed so well?
Because it doesn't go far enough. And I wonder why?

Why, for example, did Dawkins not say, "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no freedom, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference"?

I'm not talking about the freedom of individuals to do right or wrong. I'm talking about the maximal freedom of the existing universe to be fully what we observe. The parameters by which it is possible for it to evolve suns, planets and galaxies and everything therein--including gun-toting nuts, Darwins, Hitlers...and Michelangelos, Thomas Jeffersons and Dantes. This point is as old as Aquinas, but don't expect Dawkins to go there. (too much tax on the brain and all that)

Dawkins is, of course, a good enough scientist to know why he can't deny freedom in the natural order even as he blithely denies purpose, design, and assumes a pitiless indifference to the universe. Because the universe is free. It evolves the way we see it precisely because at every level, from the quantum right up to the evolution of life and the evolution of galaxies, it has a freedom it would not otherwise have if the strawman God that atheists love to puff over was interfering with it in the comic book fashion they enjoy dreaming up. (Apparently freedom in all of its manifestations is a trivial point to them.)

No, the universe we observe is precisely, for good and ill, the universe we should expect, warts and all, if there is at bottom, maximal freedom to its becoming.

This may not be of much comfort to anyone who has lost a loved one in a tragedy, I realize. But it is more in keeping with the universe we observe than the platitudes of Dawkins who is not willing to go as far as his meager philosophy demands.

Dawkins is on record, by the way, as being "not interested in free will." (Why is that not a surprise?) What is a surprise, and perhaps someday Dawkins will explain it, is why he believes there really is "no evil and no good".

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