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It was determined at the big bang you would read this post: Part II

I have great difficulty influencing the past. Try as I might, it seems to be a fixed place that manipulating is hard because time’s arrow, as it is called, moves in only one direction. Breathtakingly bright physicists don’t really see a reason for this, but it does seem to be an empirical observation of how the universe unfolds. It might be that the universe is deterministic and if so, time is a bit of an illusion. In a purely deterministic universe, from some perspective outside of time, the space-time manifold (the hyperspace that contains the universe including time) is just sitting there. Us moving though it, is just an illusion of our perspective (which is sort of weird if you think about it, because it means that humans, ants and electrons are just brute facts of the uberverse).

Let me back up here and define some terms. A deterministic universe is one in which there is only one possible outcome. At the time of the big bang, everything was fixed. My sitting here typing on a laptop was as inevitable as a dropped rock falling to the Earth. This does not seem to necessitate any theological commitments, as there are both theists and atheists who believe that that universe is deterministic. They even have worked out ways that free will can occur (from the perspective of an agent in the universe) within this sort of universe. And we have to give them some credit. The universe does seem to be largely deterministic, at the macro scale anyway. Cause and effect relations seem to be fairly predictable, and the clockwork universe seems to be a pretty good description of the way the heavens move. I mean you can calculate pretty well where Mars is going to be two thousand years from now. That’s pretty deterministic.

In a purely deterministic universe God really doesn’t need to do anything. Indeed, from His perspective it’s all sort of happened already. So you have pretty strong teleology. Things are heading to certain ends with certainty. But determinism does not necessarily imply purpose. In an atheistic universe, the universe just is. It has no purpose.

Now something seems intuitively wrong with a deterministic universe for the LDS view of things. If there really is just one possible future, then, yuck we are sort of locked into our final Kingdom already. That just doesn’t seem right.

What about an open universe? How can a universe be open and still look so deterministic? Can we inject a little randomness? Yes we can! We know that the quantum world is chalk full of randomness, but there doesn’t seem to be any good way of pushing that up to the macro world. Well, no way until life showed up! Life itself lets us bootstrap some randomness into the universe. In two ways! And that randomness allows us get some creative purchase in the universe, which escapes strict determinism! How does this work? I’ll explore that next time. We’ve seen teleology without purpose; can we get purpose without teleology? Evolution shows the way to an open universe where greater purposes can unfold without the ends foreshadowed in a deterministic way.

(Sorry to be so slow with these posts. I had a long post that included everything and then saved an empty version on top. A random event I could not have predicted, yet which threw me into chaos. Discouraged and busy, I have been slow to recreate my efforts (hence the attempts I mentioned at the beginning of this post to change the past where (and when) my file was lost)). I’m posting now to avoid this. Notice the use of consciousness in this decision. That will come up later too.)

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12 comments to It was determined at the big bang you would read this post: Part II

  • I’m looking forward to the rest.

  • amri

    “we are sort of locked into our final Kingdom already.”

    unless, of course I’m already locked into the Celestial Kingdom. Then I can do some naughty things I’ve been dying to do!

  • SteveP

    Amri, you are one of the lucky ones, and indeed are locked in to the CK no matter what kind of universe we have! So have fun!

  • Jettboy

    I am posting here a comment not related to the subject because I can’t find a feedback section. There is a predominant Mormon belief that doesn’t seem to have been covered by the Mormon Organan. I have heard time and again that the fossil record is not evidence of Evolution, but of the creation of the Earth from other planets. They treat the Earth as a piece meal dumping ground of long discarded material. Can you please write a post that debunks this absurd theory?

  • SteveP

    Jettboy, I debunked it in an earlier post here. Thanks for asking, this blog does not have good search tools (which I need to fix) so these are hard to find. Enjoy.

  • Jettboy

    Thanks, and yes you do need a few changes. Have you thought of writing a book based on this blog “Evolution for Mormons”? I still think you have a theological discussion weakness that would make such a project difficult to justify, even if it would be an important work.

  • SteveP

    “you have a theological discussion weakness”

    ??

  • Jettboy

    To quote myself from my blog and earlier responses:

    “There is a reason anti-Evolution remains in Mormonism even if Creationism is seen as unattainable. Despite all the witnesses (evidence) to Evolution, many Mormons hold on to anti-Evolution positions because there isn’t anything to fill the void. The unsaid argument for Mormon Creationists is “if there is no position on Evolution, than what exactly are modern Prophets and Scriptures saying?” I have my own answers to that, but there has been little discussion on the theological implications. Keeping the questions of Evolution vs. The Creation on “a shelf to ask when I am dead” might be a good personal approach, but it will fail to convince other LDS members. And that means more than dismissing McConkie, Smith, Benson, et el. as wrong. It means the very difficult, but I believe possible, work of explaining how they are correct in their own message (such as explaining what they are really going against is the atheist use of the theory). Then, moving past that, explaining how Evolution fits into Mormon theology and Scriptures.”

    If you can’t answer how Evolution fits in with Scripture, you just appear to be going against Scripture. The good news is there are a few Mormons who are taking up that challenge.

  • SteveP

    I am not even close to a theologian. I know the church is true and I know evolution is true. How they come together is not my job and I’m humbly waiting for the further light and knowledge that comes through revelation. I try and ask interesting questions and point out the importance of evolution. I do try some reconciliation (e.g., here and here), but that I don’t have all the answers is true. Very true. And yes there are some taking up the challenge. Here is a nice one from S. Faux.

  • Why do you say life is random? I say life is complex to the point that it defies modeling, but that doesn’t mean it’s random. The same could be said of the blast pattern out of a shotgun, but one wouldn’t say that that defies determinism. Even simpler, the final resting place of a bouncing football would defy definite modeling…you could only draw probablistic circles around where it would land. So I don’t think life is macro-randomness.

  • I don’t say life is random. And the randomness I’ll be arguing is pushing into the macro universe is not unpredictability it’s the real deal, if you believe radioactive decay produces random emissions which most physicists do. But I won’t be arguing life is random. Life is not random, this is a common mistake used to argue against evolution–that somehow evolution implies life is random. It uses real randomness. But life is not random, just non-teleological. Not having a direction is not the same as random.

  • DB

    I would like to say that I am grateful to SteveP for not trying to provide a theological explanation of how evolution and scripture fit together. I prefer his style of asking interesting questions and pointing out the importance of evolution to the style of many other mormon bloggers who do give their own ideas of how science and scripture fit together. I generally find these to be as gut wrenching as the ideas presented by those who think that scientific theories are of the devil and by those who think that all scripture is allegorical and thus can be interpreted in any haphazard fashion.

    Personally, I think that the main reason for the disconnect between scripture and science is that people don’t read the scriptures very well. And if they don’t read them correctly, they ain’t going to interpret them very well either. I’ll give just one example of how people misread the scriptures. It is believed by most that the scriptures teach that the earth was created in six days. This is not true. In all three accounts of the creation given in the scriptures (Genesis, Moses, and Abraham), the six day creation event does not include the creation of the earth. In all three accounts, the earth already exists prior to the six day creation event. The scriptures give no account of the creation of the earth except to say that God created it in the beginning. The six day creation event always begins after the earth has been created. I honestly have no idea why this is so misread. Anyway, this is just one example of how the scriptures are poorly read; there are many, many others.

    Keep the posts coming SteveP. I do enjoy reading them and the comments that follow (even the gut wrenching ones). I regret that I didn’t discover your blog earlier as there are many posts that I would have liked to have commented on but perhaps old topics will come up again.

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