A "Proof" for the Existence of God, Part 6: The Moral Universe

[Disclaimer: This series is not really going to deliver a proof for God's existence. This is why the word "proof" is in scare quotes. It is, rather, a suggestive line of argument. However, "A suggestive line of argument for God's Existence" isn't a very good blog title. So, the goal of the series is not to arrive at a Q.E.D. moment. It is, rather, to end with a "That's an interesting argument" moment.]

Last post in this series.

First, let me lower your expectations. This series was very "experimental." It was a way for me to determine if some loose associations of mine could cohere in a speculative argument for the existence of God. As I look back over the series, and knowing what I am about to write, the argument has turned out to be very speculative. Very.

In the end, like all other arguments for the existence of God, the argument will only be persuasive if you WANT it to be true. I remember in college hearing Anselm's Ontological Argument for the first time and thinking to myself, "That is the most fishy argument I've ever heard. Who would ever find this argument persuasive?" Anyway, you've probably had the exact same feeling about my argument.

But that's okay. I think everyone should, at least once their life, attempt to prove that God exists in some original fashion. It's a fun but humbling experience. Plus, series like these tend to chase away the casual reader...

Now, on to the final part of the argument!

Consciousness helps to create, or at least preserve, structural complexity against the flow of entropy. Complexity involves structural and functional interdependence. This seems to imply that the telos of consciousness leads toward complex structures where consciousness become becomes increasingly interdependent. That is, functional and structural complexity produces interdependence among conscious systems (e.g., the "web" of life from the last post: interdependent conscious systems).

Eventually, the interdepedence of consciousness will needed to be managed. When? When consciousness becomes self-conscious. That is, when a self-reflective form of agency emerges. Agency will allow self-reflective systems to surf the causal foam of the universe in ways that can exponentially enhance their ability to stave off entropy. But, a self-reflective system will eventually run into an obstacle: the pursuits of other expoentially enhanced causal surfers. This clash brings the implict issues of interdepedence to the fore. The systems depend on and need each other. Entropically speaking, they need each other. Further, they need lots of systems of rudimentary conscious ability (e.g., plants, bugs, etc.). And all this interdependence looks suspiciously like...what?

I think it looks like morality.

Let me unpack the preceding more explicitly:

Self-conscious system surfing the causal foam = You

Exponential ability to enhance our ability to stave off entropy = All the ways you can prolong our own life (e.g., secure
housing, clothing, medicine, hygiene, vaccines)

The pursuits of other causal surfers = The entropic/conscious interests of other people

Clash between surfers and their interdependence = The moral nexus

Pursuing my ability to stave off entropy at your expense = Selfishness

Pursuing mutually agreeable ways to surf the causal nexus for the good of all = Morality

Using the words like "exponential" and "causal surfer" to speak about morality = Priceless

None of these equations seem strained to me. They are only odd in that I've built them up from the bottom.

Here's my point: Morality isn't the by-product of consciousness. Morality isn't a local (as in earth) phenomena. Rather, morality is "in the cards" as it were. Morality is implicit in the laws of nature. It is just a stage (the final one?) in consciousness' inexorable march AGAINST the flow of the universe.

What happens as interdependence increases? Well, morality will attempt to find the best way to manage the interdependence. But, interestingly, we already know the end point of this telos: Love.

Love is where all this is moving toward. Love is the singularity of consciousness. The singularity that is the antithesis the thin entropic spread. Conscious interdependence. Loving you as I love myself. The two become one flesh. Seeing all people, all things as an extenuation of me. It is all One. God will be all in all.

What I'm saying is this: Love is built into the fabric of the universe. Just as the laws of General Relativity predict black hole singularities, the laws of consciousness predict the singularity of love. And consciousness is as brute a fact of nature as the particles of physics. In sum, love is the culmination, the telos of consciousness.

And religious mystics of all stripes have agreed on this point. I've just come at it from a different angle. But I think my arguments and the testimony of the mystics do converge:

God will be all in all.

And God is love.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

11 thoughts on “A "Proof" for the Existence of God, Part 6: The Moral Universe”

  1. I took a Philosophy of Religion course at Harding many years ago and half the class read the Phenomenon of Man by Teilhard du Chardin. My half read something by Rheinhold Niebuhr. My classmates reported that du Chardin viewed creation as evolving toward an Omega Point that sounds like your "God will be all in all." At the time it didn't make a bit of sense to me. But now it does.

  2. As I wrote this entry I noticed I was saying something like Teilhard. I think I've been influenced by Robert Wright's book Nonzero because he explicitly ends with Teilhard. As I finished, my argument looks very similar to Wright's. I just add the bit on consciousness.

    I guess the issue is if God is transcendent or immanent. This line of argument does seem to argue for an immanent God, as its view is seeing "God in the details." But someone could use it to see a transcendent God by wondering why the "details" are as they are. Might the "details" be a sign, pointing to something?

    I recall the end of Sagan's book Contact, when Ellie calculates deep, deep into the decimal expansion of pi where she finds the "fingerprint" of the Creator.

  3. You haven't ran off all the casual readers. I've been reading along and enjoying the series. I have also been stimulated by your auguments for Universalism.

    I am very curious as to what type of hearing you receive from ACU's Bible profs. I have a great deal of respect for the open-minded stance ACU has taken on some difficult issues, especially in contrast to most of the sister schools. I'm wondering what your take is.

  4. Jason,
    Anyone who follows these posts in not a casual reader (i.e., the blog surfing type)!

    In CBS I'm very good friends with Jack Reese, Mark Love, Fred Aquino, and Chris Flanders. Here's their take on me (I'm not in dialogue with anyone else over there):

    1. They don't read my blog (I think Fred does once in awhile).
    2. But, because they are friends with me, they generally know what I'm thinking.
    3. They very much like someone on campus, outside of their discipline, tackling theological issues.
    4. Generally, they really like what I have to say.
    5. But, they tend to think I'm too reductionistic and too quick to dismiss theological/historical/biblical perspectives if I don't find them psychologically plausible. (e.g., they understand my reasons for preferring universalism, but they would not go as far as I do in that direction).

    At the end of the day, they have taught me a lot. Particularly Mark and Fred. I think they love me, but they do worry about me, theologically speaking that is:-)

    Overall, however, moving past their impressions of me, the ACU Bible profs are a diverse lot. On average, I'd say you are correct in your characterization of them as more open-minded than departments at our "sister" schools (some are VERY open). I've really appreciated how they have brought a theological sophistication to the Churches of Christ. (In the past the C of C schools were known for producing good biblical scholars who were theological neophytes. Nowadays, due to many of these profs at ACU, the C of C is now engaging the broader, worldwide theological conversation while still having a high regard for the text.)

  5. I may be missing it, but if this is any kind of proof, where's the "therefore, God exists"?

  6. Richard,

    Maybe i am not following all the details of your argument. As I see it, the argument is underdetermined, which is a whole lot better than it being overdetermined. Any good scientific theory is underdetermined, the less so the better - usually. My question is: Is it so underdetermined that it allows for almost any view of God or even some views atheistic view. I agree with Matthew, where is the conclusion and what view of God does it support. I think Einstein would accept what you say. What would a Pinker or a Dawkins say in response to your argument?



  7. Matthew,
    No, you're not missing it. As every disclaimer in this series noted: There will be no Q.E.D. moment. "Proof" in scare quotes was always meant to be tongue and cheek. Sorry for the false advertising! I did try to lower expectations at the start of this last post. At the end of the day I couldn't pull off what I attempted.

    You're right of course. A view of the Judeo-Chistian-Islamic personal God doesn't fall out of the argument. Perhaps Spinoza's God. Or Teilhard's Omega Point God.

    Basically, my argument (if you can call it that) is this:
    1. It seems to me that consciousness will produce (if conditions are right) both morality and love.
    2. And that this telos of consciousness appears to move against dissolution and death.
    3. Mystics have tended to call the "moral," "love" or "life" force of the universe "God."

    And the point is that if consciousness is an irreducible fact of the universe then morality and love and a life-force are not mere by-products of particle physics or evolution. Rather, there is a force "deeper" (or at least on equal footing) and intrinsic to the universe driving those dynamics from the bottom up. Evolution cannot work without the telos of consciousness. Evolution doesn't produce consciousness. It's the other way around.

    Again, nothing is proved here. Neither is God really specified. I guess, in the end, I'm just just trying to point out some connections that make me curious about what lies behind the curtain of the universe.

  8. @Richard - "3. Mystics have tended to call the "moral," "love" or "life" force of the universe "God."

    This is the step in the argument I was hoping to hear ... so in some ways, this *is* a proof for the existence of God, just not the God of traditional theism. Thanks, Paul, for saying the more substantive things that brought this out. =)

  9. An interesting thing you might want to notice is that thermodynamic entropy is related to informational entropy. To put it crudely, informational entropy is the idea that a uniform system contains less information than a diverse system. So to get a feel for it: if I were to send you an email message that looked like this: "hello!", or even one like this, "awert!", it would contain more information than this one: "aaaaaa".

    Thermodynamic entropy is informational entropy with regard to energy ... so a uniform distribution of matter at a uniform temperature has a higher entropy -- that is, it carries less information -- than a varied distribution of matter at a varied temperature.

    How this relates to consciousness I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure there's something there.

  10. Matthew,
    I do think there are connections all through here. Many physicists do think, at some deep level, thermodynamic and informational entropy is related. Add in the fact that consciousness seems to be related to information-processing and there may be a link between information and consciousness. I don't know what it all adds up to, but the connections are interesting.

  11. Compression makes this interesting too. Because the compressibility of a system is directly related to how much information it contains. A heat-dead universe would be much easier to compress (information-wise) than a live universe. So while we might be interested in talking about God's eventual triumph as a singularity, it might be just as helpful to talk about it as the opposite: incompressible, infinitely diverse, infinitely alive.

Leave a Reply