My thoughts on the book, 50 Voices of Disbelief, Why We Are Athiests, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk. Written as I read them in no particular order. The page number of the essay is provided at the top of each entry.
p. 105 Sean M. Carroll “Why Not?”
Finally, somebody broke out of the “Supreme Being, ruler of the universe” mold. He puts aside that billions of people do believe that, he wants to attack the strongest version his opponent’s position, not a straw man. Immediately he runs inot the slippery nature of what that position is. He lists:
Necessary being (Matthew Davidson)
Possibility (Terry Eagleton)
First Cause (Aristotle, Aquinas)
Essence of Life (Michel Henry I Am the Truth: Toward a Philosophy of Christiainity)
Unity of all (pantheism, Spinoza)
A concept by which we measure our pain (John Lennon, God)
And expresses frustration in attempting to respond to phrases like these because it is difficult to put your finger on what is being talked about. I was a bit disappointed when he broke it down into two categories:
God as a label of some feature of the world, or the universe itself
God as a logically necessary idea to make sense of the world
The first category is quickly dismissed and attention is turned to the second. He starts with general discussion of what atheism is and notes that discussions with theists often turn into is-too/is-not dialogue. In an attempt to improve on that, he picks the First Cause argument for an example. His side of the argument mostly involves physics, specifically determinism, which is different than causality. He provides a good non-technical introduction to the topic. I’ll skip the details, but his conclusion is worth noting:
“The mistake that is consistently made by arguments for a theological God is to take reasoning that works passably well in the world and apply it uncritically to the world as a whole."
“Effects have causes” makes sense for human history, and even the history of the universe, but can’t be applied to the universe itself.
I’m not sure he solved the is-too/is-not problem, but it was a much better attempt at reasonable discourse than many of the other essays. And as for the universe itself, regardless of how it was created or if anyone is controlling it, I can agree:
“The universe is, and part of our job is to discover exactly what it is. Another part of our job is to live in it, and construct meaning and depth from the shape of our lives.”