Unanswered questions: universe's purpose and alien life (General)

by David Turell @, Saturday, July 13, 2019, 18:37 (96 days ago) @ David Turell

A philosophic discussion of the meaning of finding alien life to theists and atheists; the author mirrors much of my thinking about God:


"My goal here is to explore some unexpected implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial life, and my conclusions are very speculative: extraterrestrial life would lend non-decisive support to several interesting and controversial philosophical positions. The discovery of life elsewhere would teach us that, while the Universe does have a purpose, human beings are irrelevant to that purpose. Aliens might well worship a God who is indifferent to us.


"The discovery of independently emerging life would thus teach us that life is ubiquitous. And that discovery could have very significant implications.


"The normative non-naturalist position is anomalous within a purely naturalist worldview that recognises only the natural facts and properties postulated by science.


"My central claim is that the discovery that life is ubiquitous would support normative non-naturalism.


If we discovered that life was ubiquitous, ... it then follows that the discovery of independently originating life supports normative non-naturalism – in the modest sense that this new information raises the probability that normative non-naturalism is true. Philosophical claims can be supported by empirical facts in surprising ways.


"Many theist religions stress the cosmic uniqueness of human beings – or even particular events in human history. This suggests that theists must insist that we are alone in the Universe. But another perennial strand of theist thinking points in the opposite direction. If we are alone, then this cannot be the best possible world. If humanity is valuable, then a possible world containing many other rational God-loving species would be better. If life is good, won’t God create a Universe teeming with every possible kind of life? Leibniz thought so, and argued that this best of all possible worlds is infinitely filled with life.

"If life turns out to be ubiquitous, then theists must obviously re-evaluate humanity’s place in the divine plan. But many theists, throughout the centuries, have been confident that this challenge can be met. After all, theists already believe that God has infinite love for every individual creature, and that this does nothing to diminish God’s love for me. Why should it matter that God’s love also extends to innumerably many alien individuals as well?

"The discovery of extraterrestrial life would thus support theism in two ways. We saw earlier that independently originating life would raise the probability of two other hypotheses that support theism, namely Kantianism and normative non-naturalism. We now see that ubiquitous life would also allow theists to agree with Leibniz that God has, indeed, created the best of all possible worlds.


"Theists argue that the best explanation for the existence of this Universe is that it was created by a benevolent God. One prima facie counter-example is offered by widespread, apparently gratuitous evil. This suggests instead a creator who is indifferent to the fate of individual human beings. Theists reply that, unless we suppose that God cares about rationality, knowledge or intelligibility, we cannot explain why this Universe is governed by regular intelligible mathematical laws. The Universe appears to be designed to be understood by its own inhabitants. So far as we know, we are the only inhabitants who could possibly understand it. So we must be essential to God’s plan.


"The intelligibility of the Universe is prima facie evidence that God cares for us. Human suffering is prima facie evidence that God does not. The discovery of ubiquitous life tips the balance against divine benevolence, by opening up alternative explanations for intelligibility."

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