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!

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I'm not confusing the two. I deliberately stayed away from using the word "determinism" by itself. However, you're right, whenever someone brings up that oh, so vague word "determinism" much confusion ensues. Thank you for bringing up this point, Unseen, so now I'll take a little bit time to make it clear of what I meant in my previous post.

I'm asking people to postulate hard determinism for a moment, not the type of determinism that most people equate to "adequate determinism" that allows for indeterminacy somehow (which I don't personally believe in).

You see, if you postulate a hard determinism (predeterminism), then couldn't this be seen as a "higher power"? I mean, we go about our lives thinking we're in control or we have some influence on the outcome of events, when, if you were to suppose hard determinism, we truly don't at all. We all, in a sense, have to succumb to a "higher power."

Now, I'm not saying that predeterminism is the case and this is how the universe truly operates, I was just wondering, instead, if anyone would even consider it a kind of "higher power," if hard determinism were the case.

I may have posted this before, or not, but there was a recently deceased guru of India by the name of Ramesh Balsekar which defined "enlightenment" as the realization or the epiphany of hard determinism. I find his logic and reasoning behind his perspective fascinating, and the way he articulates it, too.

If you don't like his use of the word "will of God," please replace it with "cosmic law" when you hear it. Because there's a phrase in the beginning where I think most atheists would just close the video, for instance, where he says, "A uniquely designed instrument through which the primal energy of consciousness of God could function." He often will change this phrasing around for atheists who cringe at such comments, and say something like, "A unique organism which is governed by a cosmic law." Of course, this cosmic law is equated to hard determinism by Ramesh.

Ramesh Balsekar - Uniquely Programmed Individual

If by "higher power" you mean following rules that are unavoidable (like gravity) then yes ... a world that is a hard deterministic one has a higher power. If by higher power you mean one that is conscious or supernatural or a fabric of galactic emotion and meaning or planned ... then no ... a world that is a hard deterministic one does not have a higher power.

Higher power is such a loaded term it shouldn't be associated with the laws of physics. This will bring about confusion and/or allow sneaky spiritualists to slip irrational arguments into otherwise meaningful conversation.

Well, yes, I meant laws of physics that are unavoidable in a predeterministic universe, but I'm not sure how you've distinguished this from your second example of "consious" or "fabric galactic emotion." If it's ultimately predetermined in either case, then why would you consider one a "higher power" and the other one not?

If I'm understanding you right, you're making a distinction between pure laws of unconscious physics against another universe that also operates by pure laws of physics, only at its essence is somehow conscious, and this conscious intent, because it has to obey these inevitable laws, isn't a "higher power." 

Maybe I misunderstood you, but they seem to be one and the same thing, only you've defined one as conscious and the other not.

I never claimed that the world doesn't have a higher power. What I did claim was: if by higher power you mean a super natural higher power...then the universe doesn't have a higher power.

There is most certainly a difference between claiming that the universe has a neutral meaningless set of laws vs. claiming the universe has a set of laws which are planned by a conscious being or which was initiated by a cosmic force of goodness or that the universe works through hard-determinism mechanism infused with conscious intent. They aren't the same claim at all.

If they weren't the same, then what is the difference aside from one universe being conscious and the other is not? If they're both ultimately predetermined, then this predeterminism would also apply to the universe with a conscious intent, because wouldn't this conscious intent be just as predetermined as the neutral laws of physics of the universe devoid of conscious intent?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you. Perhaps you can elaborate, but these concepts are a bit weird to play with, anyway. I mean, we're throwing these terms out there like a "conscious intent that lay behind the universe." But I'm not sure how to think about this universal consciousness. Is it a kind of overmind of some sort, is it something like the Brahman of Hinduism, is it something like the Anima mundi, but applied universally, is it a panpsychism? In any case, if it is ultimately predetermined in both instances, my point is that objectively, the two hypothesized universes would operate similarly, the only difference is that we've defined one as conscious and the other not.

I'll quote Davis here: 

"There is most certainly a difference between claiming that the universe has a neutral meaningless set of laws vs. claiming the universe has a set of laws which are planned by a conscious being or which was initiated by a cosmic force of goodness or that the universe works through hard-determinism mechanism infused with conscious intent."

The point I was trying to make is conscious or not, as long as hard determinism is the case, consciousness doesn't have any influence in the sense of projecting a "free will" that would effect the outcome of events. Even with our own consciousness, as human beings, if you posit the notion that hard determinism is true, our conscious intent would not imply an open future. It's going to unfold in the one and only inevitable way that it can unfold in order to abide by hard determinism.

But this is all hypothetical, and a lot of these concepts are slippery and vague, but I still wanted to entertain Davis' concept. Even in your own example, you mentioned a "conscious pizza," but didn't really describe in what sense is the pizza "conscious." Is it a human-like or animal-like consciousness? 

Because, you see, if it were a turiya as in panpsychism, then it would possess a pure consciousness that is incapable of choosing or doing. So, it would therefore appear to be stoic, unresponsive, and objectively indistinguishable from the pizza that didn't possess this type of consciousness. Likewise, as in the two hypothesized universes, Davis said in the quote that the universe with conscious intent also adheres to hard determinism, so you'd have the two hypothesized universes that may objectively appear as twins, except one defined as conscious and the other not.

Aw, come on, Davis. You don't get it. Consciousness and lack of consciousness are the same thing.

I'm not saying Davis "doesn't get it." I said I may be interpreting this idea wrong. After all, he introduced it, and that's why I asked him if he could perhaps elaborate. I just thought it may be interesting to entertain his concept. My original question that I posed was if hard determinism was true, would people consider this a "higher power" because all human affairs would ultimate fall under the principle of preordained cause and effect.


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