Page 125 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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or someone create all of the stuff in the universe for a purpose?’ One position, which
we can call ‘Creationism,’ holds that the existence of stuff implies both a creator and
a purpose … Opposed to the philosophical position of Creationism is a philosophy
that we might call ‘Accidentalism,’ or a belief that matter in the universe, and life on
earth, emerged without any external influencers. … ‘Creationism vs Accidentalism’ is
not a scientific debate, since it makes no testable assertions and generates no
falsifiable hypotheses. It is a philosophical debate about the cosmic master narrative.”
The standard theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest cannot explain the initial
arrival of the fit. Religionists attribute such an arrival to God; science attributes it to chance.
It is this attribution that gives rise to many of the tensions underlying this debate. Consider
the implications of a fairly standard creationist belief: “If man comes from random causes,
life has no purpose or meaning” (Morris, 1974). The “fit” here is the belief that accidentalism
gives rise to a lack of meaning. It could of course be argued that that very initial “lack of
meaning” is the “gap” or “niche” to be filled by the concept of God.
Is God a truth or a concept invented by humans? If a truth (as might be asserted by a
theistic realist), then the denial of meaning implied by accidentalism means that the true God
is somehow limited (by allowing for a creation without meaning), which to many would be a
heresy. In other words, God allowed an accident and then made the most of it and acted in the
absence of omniscience. If instead God is a concept invented by humans (as the strict
constructivist would claim), then there is plenty of room for accidentalism, as the initial
condition with meaning and mechanism were both added later. Thus, it seems that
accidentalism implies either constructivism or heresy – both of which trouble the “omniscient
God is truth” religionists, but should be of no concern to the “who are we to attempt to
understand God” religionists.
Austin (2014) continues:
“The second debate … involves the mechanism through which life on earth has
developed. There are really only two possibilities for this mechanism. One of them is
evolution by natural selection. The other one is ‘Magic.’ Unlike ‘Creation,’ Evolution
does not pretend to be a master narrative. It tells us nothing about the ultimate nature
of reality or about the great designs of forces beyond our comprehension. It is a
specific mechanism that produces changes in populations of organisms over long
periods of time.” We can watch it happen in a petri dish, and, whether we are talking
about dinosaurs or microbes, the mechanism works the same. The specific mechanism
of natural selection works equally well as part of either one of the cosmic master
narratives. It could be part of the plan of an intelligent Creator, Or it could be one of
the lucky breaks that go into the cosmic theory of Accidentalism. It is not necessary to
decide which cosmic narrative to subscribe to before learning how the mechanism
works.”
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