Saturday, January 8, 2011

But the Baby Bear’s Porridge was Ju-u-ust Right…

Our Canadian Colleague comments, concerning a recent post (“Why is there Something rather than Nothing, Grandpa?”):

>> patterns not specifically tailored to the cerebral convolutions ... of ... the humble woodchuck.
>I think you are disagreeing here with most of the Christian theologians who have ever lived. Surely God created the universe just for us, so everything in it ought to make sense?

Now as it happens, I am at present reading a book that addresses this very issue -- but by a physicist, not a theologian (though he is a Christian):  Paul Davies, The Goldilocks Enigma:  Why Is the Universe  Just Right for Life? (2006).   The enigma in question refers to the program of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle.   This exists in various strengths, such as the Weak Anthropic Principle -- basically “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here -- and if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here to know it” -- and the Strong Anthropic Principle -- in short, that the universe was fine-tuned so as to bring forth -- Hi Mom! --  intelligent life -- with no doubt many variants in-between, such as the “Feeling off my feed but should soon be right as rain” Anthropic Principle.   Since book-length discussions of these are easily available, I won’t comment further.


The alert reader will have noticed, however, that so far I have sidestepped the challenge issuing from the hyperborean forests.

Before replying publically, I passed this note to my Spiritual Advisor, Dr. Massey:

Now in fact, I am unable to conceive that the universe was created "just for us" -- certainly not just for H. sapiens;  *possibly* for all rational species, of which there may be a great many.    This view is not heresy, I hope?

To my immense relief, he thus replied:

No heresy there. Certainly, we must, by revelation, hold that only humans are created in the Imago Dei (I'm here, btw, using the nominative of the technical term, but after the preposition "in" in Latin, it would have been "in imagine Dei". I had originally typed just that, but thought better of it.)
In fact, a fairly straightforward reading of Genesis 1 would conclude that God did not create the universe for Man, but rather out of sheer goodness. Man was given an important caretaker role over that creation, but it wasn't made *for* him. Further, scripture attests a speaking animal in Numbers 22.

This keeps happening:  By a process of mediation and reasoning, I arrive at a conclusion that seems potentially alarming, only to discover that it is a doctrine tolerated or even advocated by the Holy Mother Church.

Even better, the learnèd doctor goes on:

In fact, a rereading of the delightful passage in Numbers 22 reveals that animals are experiencing the supernatural world on a level we humans are not. Balaam's ass, to be sure, cannot speak until the LORD "opened his mouth." But Balaam is not able to see the Angel of the LORD until God "opened his eyes."

Surely, after having his eyes opened, we do not conclude that Balaam is not really seeing the Angel. In the same way, we are not permitted to conclude that it is not really the donkey speaking. (In answer to some commentaries that say that God was merely speaking through the dumb animal.)

The Angel further points out that he would have spared the donkey and killed Balaam if they had come any closer.

So animals are, according to scripture, walking around and quite normally and naturally seeing what is invisible to us. And what do they see? They see a world filled with the servants and angels of God all around.

I have often noticed this phenomenon myself, particularly among the ducks.

A viewpoint somewhat more congenial to the thesis fathered above upon Christian theologians, may be found in Islam.  Although the Qur’an is overall strongly theocentric, in the matter of Adam  it is more anthropocentric than is the Torah.  For in Sura 2:31-33 we learn that God taught Adam the names of things, then stumped the angels and had Adam himself instruct the angels in the names;  and in verse 34, God orders the angels, “Bow down to Adam”:  which they did, but Iblis (Satan) refused, and thus became a kafir (unbeliever).

As for whether the cosmos itself was specifically made for mankind, 2:29 says only “It is He Who hath created for you all things that are on earth.”  This says nothing about other galaxies, let alone the cosmos as a whole, let alone Riemannian manifolds and E8.

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