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© Michael Lacewing Explaining the universe Michael Lacewing

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1 © Michael Lacewing Explaining the universe Michael Lacewing

2 What we need to explain Why does the universe exist at all? Why do we exist? (Why is the universe set up so that life is possible?)

3 Richard Swinburne Presumably…the matter-energy at the time of the Big Bang when the universe began…had just the quantity, density, and initial velocity as to lead in the course of time to the evolution of organisms…. Only a certain sort of critical arrangement of matter and certain kinds of laws of nature will give rise to organisms. And recent scientific work on the fine- tuning of the universe has shown that the initial matter and the laws of nature had to have very, very special features indeed if organisms were to evolve. (Think, Vol. 1)

4 Science is inadequate Science can’t explain the origins of the universe. Science can’t explain scientific laws, because all scientific explanations presuppose laws. And we need to explain the very specific laws that allow for the existence of life. Either there is some other explanation of them, or the whole way the universe is, is complete coincidence.

5 Personal explanation We can explain the universe if we give a personal explanation in terms of God: God wanted life to exist, so created the physical laws to make this possible. We use explanations in terms of persons - what we want, believe, intend - all the time. These are not explanations that make use of scientific laws.

6 Is this a good explanation? Does it improve our understanding? Or does introducing God just invoke one mystery to explain another?

7 ‘Simple’ Simplicity: –Don’t invoke more different kinds of thing than you need to –Don’t give them more or more complex properties than they need for the explanation to work. God is one being (not many); God’s properties are simple: unlimited power, knowledge and goodness –If not unlimited, then we must say ‘how much’, and that precise amount will need explanation.

8 ‘God’ is not an explanation Persons - minds - are very complex: –If I intend to do something, e.g. write this talk, my mind must be capable of thinking of the talk; it is as complex as the talk. –So God must be as complex as the universe. –So we have explained nothing. ‘What explains God?’ is no better than ‘What explains scientific laws?’

9 God is an explanation God is as sophisticated as the universe, but not as complex. Swinburne: that we can’t explain God is no objection. A good explanation may posit something unexplained. This happens in science all the time, e.g. subatomic particles.

10 Does the universe need explaining? The lottery argument –It’s incredibly unlikely, before the draw, that whoever wins will win. –But someone will win. –With enough chances, the incredibly unlikely can become inevitable. If there are lots of universes, one of them would have the right conditions for life.

11 Why us? Why this one? No reason: but if it wasn’t this one, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question! It’s all a big coincidence.


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