What if Belief in a Higher Power is Not Belief in Anything Supernatural?

I happen to believe in a higher power but do not believe in anything supernatural. I'm sure this has a lot to do with my coming to my belief as a fairly science literate, science positive person who spent most of his life as an atheist. If I believe that a thing exists, I then see it as an aspect of nature, not a thing outside of it.

If, like myself, you except the tenets of evolution,all products of humanity are products of nature, as human nature is a facet of nature. All written and spoken languages, music, visual art, technology, philosophy, and so on, are results of The Big Bang.

If you could go back in time a couple hundred years with a functioning smart phone, I don't think you would have much difficulty convincing most people, who would yet to have even seen a photograph, that this device which produces music, photos, video, and that facilitates both written and spoken long distance communication, was the product of wizardy, when, of course, we all know that the phone is merely a product of technology.

As for my belief in a higher power, it has a lot to do with my feeling that, as any atheist will tell you, nature and evolution unfold at random. I read up on one experiment designed to demonstrate how random construction occurs. Take a tumbler and insert some nuts and bolts and let her rip. and after a time, some of the nuts and bolts will begin to thread together. This demonstrates how nature has eventually resulted in such as Earth and life and you and I at random. What I have derived from studying chaos theory is an understanding of order and what you might call disorder as things that exist in degrees, and that seem to exist to some degree simultaneously in everything, including manufactured objects that may appear identical to us, but are not really identical. Same with twins, fingerprints, snowflakes, and so on. In chaos there is nonlinear order, the blending of things like symmetry and asymmetry. Any group of trees, clouds, or peaks and valleys in a mountain range, or people, has degrees of similarity, and characteristics that make them recognizable for what they are. Yet they are all also distinct. Not identical. That's nonlinear order.

In terms of looking at nature, you can look at all of its random aspects, and say that there is no element of intention in them. But I sincerely believe, without an issue with things like evolution, that this is only looking at one aspect of a duality. There is randomness, (And distinction and individuality) everywhere in everything, but there is also symmetry, similarity, patterns, and order. If you only look at those things you may convince yourself that everything was meticulously designed, which is not what I believe. I think that the circumstances happen to be in place by which order, complexity, evolution, and life, obviously could come to be, but also that they were inevitable because of the degree of order and the degree of likelihood of our eventuality, as well as any and all other life, here and elsewhere. I think, then, that life does not exist as a weird anomaly, but as an inevitability of the laws that govern nature and which science examines, explores, and describes. And I do not think of this in terms of "intelligent design" in the usual sense.

Getting back to that tumbler and the nuts and bolts, where by analogy did the tumbler of the universe come from? It came from a Big Bang. And why was there that Big Bang? Well who the hell knows? Why also did it happen to result in a universe which, very early into its projected life span, has resulted in all that is, including all order, complexity, and life? The experimenter with the tumbler does not stop the tumbling and reach in and screw the nuts and bolts together, which is what people usually mean by intelligent design. Design intervention, if you will. However, that tumbler itself was designed and manufactured, as were the nuts and bolts with their matching threads. A power source for the tumbler was made available and it was accessed. The tumbler was plugged in. And then someone put those matching nuts and bolts into the tumbler and threw the switch. Otherwise, no random threading of some of the nuts and bolts. Why not instead pour yogurt into the tumbler, or a drawer full of silverware, or just leave it empty and let it run?

Well maybe you get a sense of where I am coming from anyway. VERY long winded. An outrage I say! Burn this man at the stake!

Tags: chaos, complexity, evolution, nonlinear, order, randomness

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@ThinkAtheist nuts and bolts randomly threading together in a tumbler is a very poor analogy for evolution.

I've heard worse attempts to explain this.

What would be a better analogy?

VERY long winded. An outrage I say! Burn this man at the stake!

Don't worry, if I wasn't long winded I couldn't breathe.

Where is it written that science makes good philosophy?

On one occasion I asked a Christian what his Theology was and he responded:

"I don't have a theology I just believe what the Bible says."

On another occasion I asked a Scientist what his Philosophy was and he responded:

"I don't have a philosophy I just believe in reality confirmed by the Scientific Method."

I think they were both goddamned fools.

As for my belief in a higher power, it has a lot to do with my feeling that, as any atheist will tell you, nature and evolution unfold at random.

You've taken a wrong turn here, Mike. No atheist with even a cursory understanding of evolutionary biology will tell you that evolution unfolds at random. Evolution is non-random.

The experimenter with the tumbler does not stop the tumbling and reach in and screw the nuts and bolts together, which is what people usually mean by intelligent design.

Intelligent design (or creationism or whatever name you decide to call it) doesn't get a lot of traction around here, Mike.

If a tumbler, being complex, requires a creator, then a tumbler-creator, being more complex, requires a creator. If you simply define the tumble-creator as self-existing (and exempt from requiring a creator) then you destroy your own assertion that a creator is necessary to explain complexity.

The trail of evidence and necessity stops at the Big Bang. That's the simple truth of it.

Based on what the priest says, I would say his name should be "Father Contradiction." As a youth attending Catholic school I recall being very frustrated, never receiving a direct answer to a simple question. It took decades for me to make a clean break.

There may be a random seed that creates the genetic variations that are non randomly selected by external factors for propagation and eventually evolution. I am sure that a theist could propose that it only appears random to us when it is actually the hand of god guiding the development as he wishes.

 

You've taken a wrong turn here, Mike. No atheist with even a cursory understanding of evolutionary biology will tell you that evolution unfolds at random. Evolution is non-random.

Not quite so. While evolution progresses deterministically according to natural law, it is also fed by mutations which occur at random and are either adopted or rejected according to their contribution to the increased survivability of the species.

Gallup: Evolution is non-random.
Unseen: Not quite so.

Quite so. Biological evolution refers to changes in living organisms through descent. To describe the process as random simply isn't true.

Genetic variation is random (although not totally random) but it's incorrect to describe evolution as a whole based on one mechanism of it. It's like pointing at a car tire and saying cars are round.

In the video I posted, Richard Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist) explained this common misconception and how the cardinal (and now you) just perpetuated it.

The way the word "random" is used varies. Of course, any meaning that implies cosmic rays impact atoms by the hand of a deity and in contradiction to physical law is nonsense. The effects of such collisions, which can result in the mutations which feed the engine of natural selection, operates totally according to natural law. The sense of "randomness" people use in common parlance merely implies an unanticipated exception to the norm or a change with no obvious or knowable cause, not true mathematical randomness. So, there's a sense of randomness in which evolution never involves randomness and another sense in which it does.

I think it's useful to look at evolutions endogenous and exogenous factors.

How about that lovely asteroid that killed the dinosaurs? I'll bet there was at least one Stegosaurus who saw this huge asteroid about to hit the earth and said "Wow, that is so random!"

Or, "What a pretty light in the sky. I wonder what it is?"

The sense of "randomness" people use in common parlance merely implies an unanticipated exception to the norm or a change with no obvious or knowable cause, not true mathematical randomness.

That's probably why people are commonly wrong about biological evolution being random. (And people being commonly wrong doesn't make them any less wrong.)

Genetic mutations are "random" in that they generally cannot be predicted and do not occur based on what an organism "needs". (A population of beetles munching on a cash crop needs a mutation for pesticide resistance but it doesn't change their odds of getting that mutation.) This does not mean mutations are random in the sense that they happen without any obvious or knowable cause.

Many causes of mutation are known (tobacco, ultraviolet light, and other chemicals and radiation types), many causes are known to cause particular types of mutations (deletion, insertion, substitution, etc.), and some regions of the genome are known to be more susceptible to mutation than others.

So, there's a sense of randomness in which evolution never involves randomness and another sense in which it does.

Like I said, genetic mutation involves (not totally) random aspects, and is one of many mechanisms in biological evolution, which, as a whole, is only accurately described as non-random.

"...only accurately"? Got a syllogism for that?

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