The SAP and transcendent explanations

We have considered the legitimacy and scientific potential of anthropic arguments and we have come to a number of conclusions about the philosophical reach of the two versions of the SAP. We summarize these in five statements.

• Leaving aside the issue of an ultimate explanation, as long as the selection of initial conditions and the fundamental constants cannot be explained by some physical process or relationship, or rendered indifferent by one, a 'transcendent' explanation - one that takes us beyond natural science - is needed if the Principle of Sufficient Reason continues to hold.2 This may take the form of a divine creative agent or a really existing multiverse.

• If we do have good evidence, and an adequately specific model for, the multiverse to which our own universe belongs, thus providing some explanation for its bio-friendly characteristics, this would not be a complete - let alone an ultimate - explanation. We would still require an explanation for the existence and bio-friendly character of the multiverse itself (bearing in mind that there is no unique prescription for it) and for the process through which it emerged - as well as a philosophically ultimate explanation.

• If we have a final theory which uniquely specifies all the characteristics of our universe, including the initial conditions, we cannot employ the

2 The Principle of Sufficient Reason, which many philosophers maintain holds in all circumstances, requires that, for every state of affairs, event or outcome, there is an adequate reason or explanation. If, in some fundamental regime (for example quantum cosmology), this were not the case, then we might be able to forego searching for a further, deeper understanding. I personally do not believe this is the case, but it is a possible philosophical stance.

fine-tuning arguments of the SAP either scientifically or philosophically. There would then be only one way in which our universe could exist consistently. This is very unlikely, but we cannot rule it out at present.

• Even if the previous option applies, it would still not eliminate the need for an ultimate explanation or 'cause'. Nor would it invalidate philosophical arguments from contingency for the existence of God. (Here again we would be invoking the Principle of Sufficient Reason.)

• If we have a final theory that still allows some 'play' in the laws of nature, then a theological answer in terms of intentional action by a divine agent or Creator is certainly acceptable, as long as we are allowing ourselves to go beyond the natural sciences and admit a theological or metaphysical frame of reference. Science can neither support nor exclude such a conclusion. It cannot even adjudicate the question. However, in going beyond the sciences, we must avoid putting God in the 'scientific gaps'. Perhaps our final theory is not really final! We should ensure that the divine agent is always a primary or ultimate cause - not one that could conceivably be filled by some unknown secondary or created cause [34].

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment