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.)