Re: Extropianism & Theology

Jason Spencer (
Fri, 26 Feb 1999 23:49:44 -0700 (MST)

On Fri, 26 Feb 1999 wrote:

> 1) Just what use is a God-based cosmology? - Well, for one thing, if it turns
> out that there is a God who played an intricate role in the formation of the
> Universe, then I think you would need to have a cosmology which takes this
> into account at hand so you would have a better understanding of the Universe.
> Now, there is no good proof currently that this is the case, but given that we
> still, to the best of my knowledge, understand why there is a Universe to
> begin with, we can not completely rule out the possibility of it having been
> designed in some manner, and should work out some cosmologies based on this
> option (as well as ones which do not include a God or gods) and see which is
> the best fit at any one time based on our understanding of the Universe.

Okay, but note that this only works with multiple or nested universes, otherwise you are just postponing the question. It is possible that, in a god-lacking universe, an entity with the ability to create another universe arises by evolution. What we call the universe, could be running on a turing machine in some meta-universe. (For an interesting fictional representation of such a scenario, see Greg Egan's Diaspora (or Wang's Carpets)...I'm thinking of something like this only intentional). If you propose a god as a designer you must invent an entity. You must also presuppose *purpose* and *meaning*. These are things that are explainable through evolution but cannot logically arise from nothing. God *based* cosmologies are incomplete.

As far as God playing an "intricate role in the formation of the universe" goes, there may not be much for such an entity to do. When you say "formation", I assume you mean something like, "creating the physical laws and constants". Contemporary physics has reduced this to pretty much nothing. It seems an awful waste to invent a god with full fledged intentionality just to cause some vacuum fluctuations to get the ball rolling. Without inventing a god we actually have less to explain.

I look at the "Why does the universe exist" question as being malformed. There is no "why" at this level. "Why" doesn't exist before life. There is no intentionality before agency.

Scenarios like the idea of time-travelling god-like-entities from the future being here now don't hold much interest to me simply because they don't seem very likely at all.

> And
> apart from cosmology, I am sure that if we were to discover a God, we would be
> able to find some use for such a being. Maybe as a Universal Lifeguard to
> catch any unwary posthumans who bite off more than they can chew (I TOLD you
> we were too close to that event horizon!).

Yes, you won't have much trouble convincing people of the advantages of omnipotence and the like.

> 2) Efficiency is not always the most desirable attribute in any system. For
> example, sometimes power is. I could have the most fuel efficient car in the
> Indy 500, but I bet I would still lose to those gas guzzlers, even with their
> pit stops. And what is an efficient use of time now may not be so efficient
> under future conditions; that is why it is good to have a variety of
> approaches to any problem, even if it costs you more in time at the onset to
> develop them.

Power is important, yes. But we're talking about the car that most efficiently achieves the goal--winning the race. Power would thus be included when necessary.

> 3) Don't develop a meme which masks the possibilities - I whole-heartedly
> agree, but doesn't this work both ways? I don't want to create a "God" meme
> which keeps me blind to "Atheistic" possibilities, but I also don't want to
> create a "Atheism" meme which masks "Theistic" possibilities. I think the
> most important thing is to attach a "Fallibility" meme to either approach; no
> matter how right I think I am, there is always the possibility that I am
> wrong. The Tolerance meme and Curiosity meme would also be useful to both
> worldviews; even if I am right, its okay for others to think they are
> right...and hey, why DO they think they are right? I think if we provide
> these supporting memes, we have lowered the risk of any other meme masking the
> possibilities.

Yes. It's important to make a distinction between type of atheism. My preferred flavor of this is "strong" vs." weak" atheism. Strong atheists are the silly, unscientific people who try to "prove" the nonexistance of god. I consider myself a weak atheist--rejecting the god idea but not positively ruling it out. Agnostisism may be broken down similarly, strong agnosticism may equal weak atheism.(Weak agnosticism being the undecideds/noncognitivists) I believe that this may be the root of the agnostic/atheist debate, the failure to make this distinction.

I don't need or want a religion. Although I recognize a possible utility of religion/spirituality for some people, I can get all that I need to fill any "gap" that may exist, from science and art. When I discovered the extropians (and realised that I already was one) and read the principles, it helped me escape the nihilism that I was approaching. Practical/Dynamic Optimism provides fallibility while still remaining constructive.

Using "religion" to describe gods arising via evolution seems to me to be a bit misleading. I'd prefer more conventional terms. Religion usually implies dualism, or at least ontological precedence.

Jason Spencer